Dallas Independent School District

DISD Mental Health Department Makes Case for Additional Clinicians

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Like many adults, students feel the toll of the pandemic compounded by day-to-day responsibilities. It’s why Dallas School’s Department of Mental Health Services has made the case for additional licensed mental health professionals on campuses across the district.

Between exams, peer pressure, home life and a global pandemic, students, are juggling a lot. Dallas ISD senior Iris Rivas says she’s been bogged down with college applications.

“We were all just worried like ‘am I going to make it on time, is this going to be good enough, am I good enough?’” Rivas said. “That was the worry, especially trying to balance our school life.”

School leaders recognize students’ mental health is part of overall health. It’s why DISD’S Department of Mental Health Services wants to add roughly 30 to 40 licensed mental health clinicians to the district roster.

Tracey Brown is the executive director of the department. She said the board is expected to consider the proposal this week. If approved, it would take the number of clinicians from 122 to as many as 162.

“It’s going to be a game-changer for our kids,” Brown said. “Those additional mental health clinicians that we’re proposing to the board, they’re going to be critical. They help remove barriers for our kids.”

With more mental health experts on board, the department hopes to implement what’s called the 3,2,1 Model. Each comprehensive high school campus would have its very own clinician. At middle schools, a clinician would be assigned two campuses. And on an elementary level, a clinician would be assigned to three campuses.

“Right now, we have some clinicians that are juggling three or four schools,” said Brown. “So that doesn’t give them the opportunity to be at that campus on a consistent basis to dig deep with the students.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 3 high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness in 2019. That was a 40% increase since 2009.

The CDC also says in 2021, more than a third of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the pandemic. 44% reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless.

Rivas said she’s certain her peers would benefit from the additional resources.

“It’s going to feel like the student body is heard and we will feel protected and comfortable coming to school knowing that there will be someone to talk to. Whether it’s at home or school, there will be someone to talk to,” she said.

Ultimately, Brown said it’s about giving students the tools they need to succeed.

“Every single student deserves to have someone help them walk this walk of life,” said Brown.

If the additional personnel are approved, DISD Department of Mental Health Services would begin the hiring process and aim to have all clinicians on staff by the start of next academic year.

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