Harder Encourages State to Focus on Student Mental Health During Pandemic

August 5, 2020
Press Release
Federal CARES Act Funding Can Be Directed to Hiring Mental Health Professionals in Central Valley

Modesto, CA – Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) today sent a letter to State Superintendent Tony Thurmond and Governor Gavin Newsom asking that the state of California prioritize staffing of mental health professionals during the Coronavirus Pandemic. With students at home and missing normal social and educational opportunities, Rep. Harder wants to ensure mental health is considered a top priority as the state develops and implements its plans for the school year. Isolation and a lack of extracurricular activities are likely to take a toll on students, meaning mental health staff are now more important than ever.

“I hear from parents all the time who are worried about their kids since they’re stuck at home and can’t do the normal stuff they should be doing as kids,” said Rep. Harder. “Mental health needs to be at the top of the list as we think about school relief – our kids need it.”

"Students are dealing with many different social and emotional issues during this unprecedented time of isolation,” said Patterson Joint Unified School District Superintendent  Philip M. Alfano. “They will be coping with new issues adjusting and transitioning back to school when our campuses reopen.  Never in our history has it been more important to have additional counseling staff and mental health professionals in our schools."

 

The text of the letter is below and an original version is available here.

Students in my district and across the Central Valley are facing ever-growing levels of stress and anxiety as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I write today to urge you to ensure that our schools are adequately staffed with mental health professionals and counselors for the upcoming school year.

It remains unclear what the long-term effects the COVID-19 crisis will have on our nation’s youth. We know that students in my district and across the Central Valley will need the aid of school-provided counselors and mental health professionals now more than ever. Research has shown that a student’s long-term academic performance and attendance improves when they have access to school counselors and mental health professionals. However, in our state, the average student to counselor ratio is 622-to-1. This is simply not good enough. Our students are counting on us to provide them with a quality education, and we cannot accomplish this if we do not provide them with access to school counselors and mental health professionals.

School counselors and mental health professionals are needed now more than ever as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – and Congress has given you the resources to provide these services to our student population. The CARES Act provided California nearly $4 billion dollars in funding to be allocated toward education. This included $1.741 billion for K-12 schools, and $369 million for the Governor’s emergency education relief grants.  School districts across the Central Valley need this funding to adequately staff our schools with counselors and other mental health professionals for the upcoming school year. Time and time again our students in the Central Valley have been left behind – and we simply cannot afford to let this happen yet again, which is why I urge you to use the funding made available to you in the CARES Act to ensure that students in my district are provided with access to school counselors and mental health professionals for the upcoming school year.

Students and their families in my district and across the Central Valley are depending on us as leaders in our state to provide a quality education, and that means ensuring that our students have access to school counselors and mental health professionals. Again, I urge you to ensure that our schools are adequately staffed with mental health professionals and counselors. Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your response.