Empty classrooms and full intensive care units created a year of unprecedented challenges for Los Angeles students, educators and healthcare providers.
A pandemic. An uprising. An education crisis. And an economic crash. The year 2020 was one of the most challenging years in our history — and an outsize share of those challenges were borne by the students, educators and healthcare workers we serve.
“Our friends rallied around us, and we rallied around them during this crisis,” said Maryjane Puffer, executive director of The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health. “But the problems experienced in 2020 — healthcare and income disparity, racial injustice, distrust of our institutions and inadequate public health facilities — did not start in 2020 and will not disappear in 2021. We have so much work to do.”
The L.A. Trust adapted quickly to the pandemic and school closures in mid-March, transferring in-person outreach to social media and face-to-face meetings to online platforms like Zoom.
With schools on lockdown and many Wellness Centers closed, The L.A. Trust redoubled its efforts to address the primary, oral and mental health needs of Los Angeles Unified students:
Held Wellness Center Learning Collaboratives online in May, October and December to discuss urgent issues related to the pandemic. The three online events were attended by a total of nearly 200 healthcare providers, researchers and L.A. Unified facilitators.
Provided its stakeholders with information about the unfolding pandemic, interviewing experts like Barbara Ferrer, head of L.A. County Public Health, and Jim Mangia, president and CEO of St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, operator of Wellness Centers at Lincoln, Manual Arts and Washington Prep, which have remained open during COVID.
June: Distributed more than 50,000 toothbrushes as part of Operation Tooth Fairy, garnering widespread media coverage about the importance of maintaining oral health.
July/December: Conducted virtual convenings of The L.A. Trust’s Oral Health Advisory board to help providers pivot during COVID crisis. An in-person meeting was held in March, pre-COVID.
July: Moved its nutrition programs online, reaching nearly 80,000 students and community members with Facebook workshops and professionally produced cooking videos.
August: Trained student health advocates at our first-ever Summer Academy and supported Student Advisory Board members and their allies throughout the pandemic.
August: The L.A. Trust launched our Student Mental Health Initiative, funded by a $100,000 grant by Cedars-Sinai and a $50,000 grant by Health Net. The initiative will train students as peer leaders through The L.A. Trust’s Student Advisory Boards, increasing awareness of symptoms like anxiety and depression, and building positive coping mechanisms and self-referrals to care. The initiative will include student-run social media campaigns and online trainings such as “Youth Mental Health First Aid” starting in the fall.
September: Educated more than 40 state legislators and their staff on the need for school-based healthcare during a first-ever virtual Advocacy Day.
September: Launched a new website for The L.A. Trust with expanded resources and a new rallying cry, “Putting the care in student healthcare.”
October: Helped promote and conduct the online California School-Based Health Alliance Conference, attended by nearly 1,000 health advocates from across the state.
October: Released a Data xChange Report on the impact of L.A. Unified Wellness Centers over the past five years.
Fall: Partnered with L.A. Unified and KLCS-TV to broadcast The L.A.Trust-produced nutrition and oral health spots reaching an audience of up to 2.3 million students and family members.
Fall: The L.A. Trust’s program managers, adult allies, director of programs and executive director completed the eight-hour Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training and received certification as YMHFA providers. The L.A. Trust’s program manager in turn trained dozens of Student Advisory Board members in the How to H.E.L.P. A Friend curriculum.
November: Worked with the office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the T.H.E. Clinic to distribute thousands of N95 protective masks to frontline healthcare workers at Los Angeles Unified Wellness Centers.
December: Created a new Oral Health Toolkit to put resources at dental providers’ fingertips.
“It has been a devastating year,” Puffer said, “and the effects are far from over. But last year witnessed unimaginable courage, resilience and resourcefulness. We are so proud of our students, educators, healthcare providers and partners in Los Angeles Unified and beyond.”