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Area students continue to seek mental health supports

Appeal-Democrat - 2/28/2024

Feb. 27—Marysville Joint Unified School District has made a push to prioritize mental health care for students in recent years; the introduction of wellness centers on some campuses being a key stepping point for these initiatives.

According to the district's Director of Wellness Tony Perez, hundreds of students across several campuses have sought out resources provided at these wellness centers since their inception. A total of 18 wellness centers are in place across district elementary and middle schools, and one wellness hub open to community members is hosted at Lindhurst High School.

Some of these wellness initiatives were funded through a California Community Schools Public Partnership grant in 2023, which awarded Marysville Joint Unified $13.5 million to develop wellness programs and activities at several school sites. However, the Blazer Support Center at Lindhurst High School was made possible through partnerships with the Yuba County Office of Education and Peach Tree Health to provide clinical services to students and community members.

District officials previously said that more community hubs will be established at Yuba Gardens Intermediate School and Cedar Lane Elementary School, and Peach Tree Health is in the process of establishing the required licensing to offer on-site services.

Based on available data, Marysville Joint Unified wellness centers have recorded 873 total visits between Nov. 1, 2023, and Jan. 31 this year. According to Perez, these visits accounted for 273 unique students seeking support for depression or anxiety, concerns about bullying, conflicts with peers, academic stress and mental health check-ins.

Wellness centers are geared toward subclinical aspects of support that don't require the use of a licensed clinical professional. This can include school counselor visitations or prevention specialists.

"Whatever the root is, the staff will attempt to get to the root. If it's something they can manage themselves, they will, or make referrals to the next level of support," Perez said.

The Blazer Support Center first opened on Jan. 3, 2023, and recorded around 50 visits within its first week, the Appeal previously reported. Between August 2023 through Jan. 31 this year, the wellness hub has recorded 1,011 total visits between 421 unique visitors, Perez said.

Students are able to schedule sessions with a team of mental health professionals including a full-time therapist, a part-time therapist and two part-time social workers. They can also use the Support Center as a mental break area by participating in mindful activities to destress.

In addition, students and their families can turn to the wellness hub to access other resources related to health, food and housing assistance. A resource drive is updated weekly to coordinate students with programs they may qualify for such as Cal-Fresh and Medicaid.

"The hub is a broader set of services in that you have Peach Tree clinical staff and county social services all in one location so it can — quite frankly — shorten the amount of time it takes to get a referral for those sorts of things. It also makes the appointment process that much easier. We're serving the students where they are versus saying, 'Here's someone you could see. We hope you can get in,'" Perez said.

In order to further access to clinical services, Marysville Joint Unified is utilizing programs such as Care Solace and Wellness Together to coordinate mental health services with students, staff and families. Moving forward, Perez hopes to assess student wellness, behavior and attendance on a year-over-year basis as the district continues to foster support for mental health.

"I think the biggest thing that I have seen in my time with the district, which began in September, is to go from a goal ... to feeling like we're operationalizing it, to seeing it put into practice, and seeing the results and the number of students taking advantage of it," Perez said.


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