VIEWPOINT: Mental health matters

by James Elsasser, superintendent of the Claremont Unified School District

The Claremont Unified School District’s mental health program implements a continuum of district-wide supports including promotion, prevention, early identification, early intervention and treatment.

The district’s mental health continuum supports students, families and school staff by aiming to improve educational outcomes by decreasing absences and discipline referrals, and maintaining graduation rates. The mental health team has continued to strive toward increasing access to mental health services by providing an easily accessible and coordinated mental health consultative and collaborative care model that sufficiently supports the identified population needs.

The mental health team is able to meet this goal by removing barriers to mental health care systems and improving access to high quality, empirically driven mental health services.

CUSD students are referred to programs offered by the mental health team when they present with concerns regarding social-emotional and/or behavioral needs that impact their ability to learn in the school environment. It has been well researched that students with mental health problems are more often absent from school than those without mental health problems.

Higher levels of school connectedness are related to increased optimism and academic outcomes along with decreases in both depression and problem behavior.

The district’s mental health team is comprised of two licensed marriage and family therapists, two licensed clinical social workers, two post-secondary interns in marriage and family therapy or clinical social work and 12 elementary school counseling interns.

For the 2018-2019 school year, CUSD has scheduled a number of events aimed at helping students, families and staff gain access to interventions and services.

On August 8, the district held a suicide prevention and risk assessment training for K-12 administrators, and more events are scheduled throughout the school year. The following is the “CUSD Mental Health and Wellness Calendar at a Glance:”

August 27:

• Suicide prevention and risk assessment training for school counselors and school psychologists.

• ACES training will be open to all certificated staff. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, conducted by Kaiser-Permanente Health and the Centers for Disease Control, looked at the impact that childhood traumas/stressors had on health and well-being throughout life. 

The study looked at childhood experiences of abuse and neglect, and at significant family challenges, including incarceration of a family member, drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence. In the presentation, the district looks to bring awareness of the study and its findings, to teach people that although any childhood trauma/ stress can have a negative impact, as a community we can create an environment of healing and resilience; a community where children and families can thrive and build healthy relationships regardless of their ACE score.

• Mental Health in the Classroom: The CUSD mental health team will provide two classes designed to be informational for educating any school staff on children’s mental health. This class will provide easy-to-understand information that could help better manage classrooms and schools, and more specifically, straight forward facts about mental health disorders, and how these influence a student’s educational experience. Participants will receive “A Guide to Student Mental Health and Wellness in California,” which is intended to be a resource to help in understanding, empathizing and action planning for students. They will also be given selfcare tools to maintain their own positive mental health to use throughout the school year and even model to other students.

September 19:

• Successful parenting for K-6 parents and caregivers. Do you struggle with getting your child to do homework? Then this training is for you!

October 2: SafeTALK, offered to all CUSD parents and caregivers, is an alertness training that prepares adults, regardless of prior experience or training, to become a suicide-alert helper. SafeTALK-trained helpers can recognize these signs and take action by connecting them with life-saving intervention resources.

October 3 through November 14:?On Wednesday evenings, parents and caregivers of tweens and teens are invited to attend active parenting at El Roble Intermediate School.

February 6 through March 13:?On Wednesday evenings, parents and caregivers of children K-6 are invited to attend Active Parenting.

February 20:?Successful parenting for parents and caregivers of tweens and teens.

April 17:?Parents & Teachers as Allies: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will present to parents and caregivers ways to make a difference for students who may be struggling with a mental health condition. Participants will learn to recognize warning signs and hear from others who have experienced this first hand.


Childcare is provided at all workshops. Additional trainings will be added throughout the year. The CUSD community is asked to check emails, students’ folders, and the Parent Engagement Workshop Calendar on the district website for specific workshop information and additiona


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