The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved $17.4 million in funding for mental health resources at Los Angeles Unified School District and Los Angeles County Office of Education campuses.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who recommended funding more mental health teams in schools, cited a study that found rates of major depression in 12- to 17-year-olds increased 52 percent from 2005-17, along with an uptick in suicides by young adults ages 18-23.
"While these statistics are hard to hear, it is important for us to acknowledge them" and bring the need for mental health treatment out of the shadows, Barger said.
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Roughly $9.7 million of the total will go to the LAUSD.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said it was "kind of unprecedented" for the county to contribute to LAUSD schools, but called the move to support students' needs "putting our money where our mouth is."
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner told the board he recently visited a middle school with 1,000 students and found that 125 children there suffered from suicidal ideation and 25 were hospitalized.
"This is a crisis," Beutner said. "This will allow us to move from intervention to prevention."
LACOE Superintendent Debra Duardo agreed, saying the number one request she gets from schools is for more mental health resources.
Duardo sees the schools initiative as a diversion program, telling the board, "Let's stop spending money on children who are being incarcerated."
Teachers who help children cope with violence in their homes and communities will also have access to more resources.
"Empowering kids" is another aim of the motion, which calls for the Department of Mental Health to develop a mental health "first aid" pilot to teach students how to support friends and families with mental health issues.
Barger said she'd like to expand programming to others school districts countywide.