SAN YSIDRO, Calif. (KGTV) – Studies show that one in five teens have serial mental health problems, but few can get the help they need. To combat this, schools in San Diego County have partnered with Blue Shield of California for the BlueSky program.
The program puts mental health counselors on campus to give students easy access to professionals for help. It also trains teachers to better identify adolescent mental health issues.
“They have anxiety, relationship problems, a lot of family separations due to immigration issues,” said Katherin Hercules, a mental health specialist at San Ysidro High School. “Children sometimes grieve and lose a loved one. They told me it was a place where they felt safe and could come and express their emotions.
Blue Shield plans to spend $ 10 million over the next five years to help resolve the issue. They partnered with ten San Diego County schools, reaching 16,000 students.
“Mental health and emotional health affect students’ ability to learn, build healthy relationships, and their physical health,” says Dr. Kimberly Bower of Blue Shield. “This is a problem that we cannot solve with a single intervention or a short-term intervention.”
Placing counselors on campus also helps remove barriers to treatment, such as lack of transportation or long wait times. Hercules says students at her school can usually get a face-to-face meeting with her in about a day or two.
The pilot program is also helping many schools with budget issues. As budgets shrink, resources such as on-site advisors are often reduced. This will restore the service.
“We regularly have to make tough decisions about what to offer our students and families,” says Manny Rubio of SUHSD. “It just provides a little extra that we don’t have to worry about.”
The local schools involved in the program are:
– Eastlake High School
– Otay Ranch High School
– San Ysidro High School
-Castle Park Middle School
– El Camino High School
– Oceanside High School
– Jefferson College
– King College
– BCE 37 High
– North County Academy of Science and Technology
Blue Shield also selected nine Oakland area schools for the pilot program.
Rubio says the District of Sweetwater plans to expand the program starting next fall. And the additional training that teachers receive will continue to help students even after the program ends.