Mayor London N. Breed, in partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), today announced an expansion of programs to promote mental health for San Francisco’s youth. With funding from the City budget, SFUSD will create and expand free school-based health and wellness program at nine high-potential schools. Starting this fall, students at select K8 and middle schools, and at all high schools, will be able to access wellness services in a safe and supportive environment at their school.
“Middle school and high school can be a difficult time for a lot of students, and this funding will support programs that help students navigate and deal with the challenges they face in a healthy and safe way,” said Mayor Breed. “With students now back to school, they should know that their City and the adults in their lives support them and want them to be healthy and happy.”
SFUSD’s existing Wellness Initiative currently serves students in all 19 high schools, bringing necessary health and wellness services to over 15,000 students. On-site experts in adolescent health help teens gain the skills they need to cope with complex issues such as stress, trauma, suicide, bullying, depression, self-esteem, drug and alcohol use, sexual health and relationships. Students also learn positive, lifelong habits that contribute to their well-being and success, and ultimately, to the health of the communities in which they live. Through on-campus programming and community-based partnerships, students receive coordinated health education, assessment, counseling and other support services at no cost.
“Students who access wellness services tell us that they feel better about themselves, get along better with family and friends, are better able to cope when things go wrong, and come to school more often,” said Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews. “We are grateful to the City for providing additional funding so we can continue to provide students with the tools they need to be successful in school and in life.”
The City budget includes $3.5 million over two years to provide trained staff to expand the Wellness Initiative and provide additional clinical mental health services at high-potential schools. High-potential schools serve historically marginalized communities and experience the highest achievement gap compared to their peers within the District.
Currently, every SFUSD middle school has limited mental health and wellness services, which include one nurse and one social worker. With $2 million in new funding, the school district will expand these mental health services by hiring one wellness coach for each of the nine high-potential schools. The wellness coach will provide a combination of counseling, case management, and restorative practice to resolve conflict and reduce harm. Select high schools will also get a designated wellness coach, who will support and bolster the existing Wellness Initiative at the school.
In addition to the mental health supportive services, $1.5 million will be used to expand clinical mental health support at 21 middle schools and provide one-on-one clinical therapy services for their students. All middle and high schools offer some level of clinical services, however there is currently a waiting list for students to access services. This funding will allow the district to collaborate with community-based organizations in order to serve all students who are referred or request mental health services.
The Wellness Initiative is the only school-based program for adolescent health and wellness of its kind. The Initiative is made possible through a unique partnership between SFUSD, the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, and the Department of Public Health. Within SFUSD, the Office of School Health Programs supports and staffs the Initiative.