The L.A. Trust, L.A. Unified, healthcare providers and student representatives are uniting to address youth mental health concerns.
Representatives from L.A. Unified School Mental Health, Student Health and Human Services, Wellness Center operators and other concerned organizations met at the first-ever Youth Mental Health Collaborative hosted March 25 by The Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health.
Marsha Ellis, director of programs for The L.A. Trust, said, “The Youth Mental Health Collaborative has two objectives — to improve student mental health access and services, and incorporate youth voice into improving the system.” The collaborative is funded by the Ballmer Group and is part of The L.A. Trust Student Mental Health Initiative, launched last fall.
Maryjane Puffer, executive director of The L.A. Trust, framed the work, outlining how training, engagement and referral systems will work together in a single strategy encompassing awareness, prevention and intervention, and healthcare access.
Puffer said members of The L.A. Trust Student Advisory Boards and after-school providers have already begun training in Youth Mental Health First Aid. Members of The L.A. Trust staff completed the training last year. Members of the Woodcraft Rangers attended the training March. Students will also participate in Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR), a suicide prevention program, and will continue to conduct student awareness campaigns on social media and on–campus, when classroom teaching resumes.
Survey finds challenges
Ellis presented survey results about the challenges encountered with remote counseling. The top issue reported was technology, followed by difficulty obtaining consent forms, distractions, lack of privacy, inadequate follow–through and complicated telehealth platforms.
Kim Griffin Esperon, a clinical social worker and administrative coordinator of LAUSD School Mental Health, provided an update on school mental health referrals, which have declined during the pandemic.
Esperon said providers can receive referral requests through several channels. LAUSD has an online “Mail Me” portal that can be used to send and receive parental consent forms. Another consent option is Zoom remote control and signature forms. Parents can also drop off and pick up paper consent forms at schools.
Jaime Ducreux, LAUSD organization facilitator, gave an update on the status of agreements between LAUSD and school-based mental health providers (MOUs). He said it has not been determined when outside providers will be allowed back on campus.
Tanya Mercado, a LAUSD social worker and attendance counselor, and Francisco Dussan of School Mental Health, Innovative Funding for Mental Health, spoke about funding models needed to expand and improve school-based mental health services. Research is still being conducted to investigate funding streams, develop deeper partnerships and recommend policy, practices and legislative changes needed to increase funding and support, they reported.
The one-hour collaborative concluded with a discussion on future bimonthly Youth Mental Health Collaboratives and establishing subcommittees to act as working groups.