DISD Mental Health Department Advocates For Additional Clinicians – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Like many adults, students are feeling the toll of the pandemic compounded by day-to-day responsibilities. That’s why the Dallas School’s Department of Mental Health Services has advocated for additional licensed mental health professionals on district campuses.

Between exams, peer pressure, home life and a global pandemic, students juggle a lot. Dallas ISD senior Iris Rivas says she got bogged down in college applications.

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

School leaders recognize that student mental health is part of overall health. That’s why DISD’s Department of Mental Health Services wants to add approximately 30 to 40 licensed mental health clinicians to the district’s 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 increase the number of clinicians from 122 to 162.

“It’s going to be a game-changer for our kids,” Brown said. “These additional mental health clinicians that we’re bringing to the board, they’re going to be essential. They help break down barriers for our children.

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 own clinician. In colleges, a clinician would be assigned two campuses. And at the elementary level, a clinician would be assigned to three campuses.

“Right now we have clinicians juggling three or four schools,” Brown said. “So it doesn’t give them the opportunity to be on this campus consistently to dig deep with the students.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in three high school students experienced persistent feelings of sadness in 2019. That’s a 40% increase since 2009.

The CDC also reports that in 2021, more than a third of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the pandemic. 44% said they constantly felt sad or hopeless.

Rivas said she was sure her peers would benefit from the additional resources.

“We will 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 at school, there will be someone to talk to,” she says.

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

“Every student deserves to have someone to help them through this life journey,” Brown said.

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

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