It is time to reconsider how we provide mental health services for children in schools.
Just over 50 percent of the schools in the Tacoma Public School District offer school-based services, which are intended to reduce barriers such as transportation, parents taking time off work, etc.
School-based services are a good idea, but also pull students out of the six-hour school day.
As a social worker, I believe in ensuring access to services and equality for those seeking them. But given how busy the school day already is, I support a suggestion made by School Board President Catherine Ushka.
Ushka, who was recently elected to the Tacoma City Council, suggested rethinking how we use school buildings outside school hours. She imagines them as “community hubs” where children can access things like social services, including mental health services.
Community mental health providers would come to campus and meet with children after school hours; families could come along to join sessions or to access their own services.
This would keep children in familiar environments, eliminate barriers like transportation and parents’ work schedules, and make school buildings useful during non-school hours.