CHHCS Director, Olga Acosta Price, presented at the “Salud Mental: School Based Mental Health Programs for Youth”, as part of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 2011 Policy Conference. This Summit was hosted by Representative Grace Napolitano of California. 

(From left to right: Dr. Price, Dr. Rosa Gil,                                        (Dr. Price “power-punching” with Mia St. John)
Rep. Napolitano, Reynaldo Casas, & Mia St. John)

A few talking points from her presentation on emotional/behavioral health (see full PowerPoint presentation here):

  • Julio, an 11 year old from Los Angeles, profiled as part of a Caring Across Communities project, represents one of many children facing personal challenges that impact their ability to do well in school. Estimates indicate that 10-20% of ALL young people in the U.S. suffer with an emotional/behavioral problem that impairs them at home or school. The silver lining on which to build hope is that the majority of youth who do obtain care, like Julio, receive that care in a school setting.
  • Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority group in the U.S., and make up approximately 23% of the school population. This trend will likely continue as a recent report by Pew Hispanic center announced that “Births have surpassed immigration as the main driver of the dynamic growth in the nation’s Mexican-American population”. The implication of the increase in births among Hispanic mothers is that many of our schools (especially preschools and elementary schools) have a significant number of Hispanic children.
  • “School Mental Health” (SMH) means many things to many people, but the most inclusive paradigm of SMH conceptualizes this approach within a public health frame. SMH includes programs that facilitate the development of social and emotional competencies for all children in an effort to promote better learning and healthier learning environments. But some children will need more support beyond these promotion and prevention efforts. As a result, early identification and interventions are necessary to avoid the ‘cant help you until you sufficiently fail’ systems that are currently in place.
  • What promise does SMH hold? Why invest in improving the emotional/behavioral health needs of children through school partnerships? One answer is that the impact of SMH on social, emotional and behavioral outcomes has been widely demonstrated, AND, in addition, a growing number of studies have linked emotional and behavioral interventions in schools to improved educational outcomes and enhanced academic performance. For example, a recent meta-analysis of several hundred school-based, universal social and emotional learning (SEL) programs involving over 250,000 students, found that compared to controls, participants in the intervention demonstrated significantly improved skills, attitudes, behavior, and had an 11% gain in achievement.For more information on the event and legislation pertaining to school mental health, please see Rep. Napolitano’s website.