Audit finds mental health staff lagging behind in schools

More than a dozen New York City school districts lack mental health staff and programs, while hundreds more lack enough social workers or counselors to help children facing challenges.

Schools in New York State entered the pandemic with too few mental health programs and staff. That’s according to an audit released this week by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who said change was needed in the form of extra funding for schools to deal with what is seen as a mental health crisis in schools. schools.

At the same time, DiNapoli called for greater oversight of mental health education in classrooms and schools across the state.

“There hasn’t been as much follow-up in terms of monitoring how these services are provided in our schools,” he said in an interview this week.

The audit covered a three-year period in schools from 2018 to 2021. During this period, students and teachers faced disruption from the pandemic and remote learning. Last year, the American Psychological Association found that more than 80% of teens experienced school-related stress due to COVID-19.

Mental health programs in schools are also seen as what is known as upstream policy, particularly for public safety – in other words, if a service can help a child today, it could prevent problems in the future.

“We need to give greater priority and more resources to mental health in our schools,” DiNapoli said. “Hopefully we can avoid some of these situations that get really out of hand.”

But in many cases, schools at that time did not have enough resources, including professional staff.

“The ratio of students to counselors and psychologists and other types of personnel and those dedicated to mental health — New York falls short on many of these measures, DiNapoli said.

This could change as schools receive money from state and federal governments.

“We don’t necessarily know what will guarantee success, but I think what will guarantee failure is lack of funding,” said Jay Worona, general counsel for the New York School Boards Association.

Schools are placing more emphasis on mental health programs and counseling as part of the return to class.

“I believe things must improve when we invest in this type of business and hopefully we will see lasting change,” Worona said.

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