Centering Wellness

Dear community member,

Behavioral health issues impacting our students were already at crisis levels before the pandemic, and by many metrics those issues have only grown.

Both here in Santa Cruz County and nationwide, students report significant increases in persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness across all grade levels, and particularly among LGBTQ+ students and students of color. Our educators know this well. More than 75% of school staff surveyed earlier last year expressed concerns about student depression, anxiety and trauma.

I’ve shared before about our Wellness Center initiative – a partnership involving the school districts, local nonprofits, County Behavioral Health and Federally Qualified Health Centers with the goal of opening one of these safe spaces and service hubs at each of the eight comprehensive high schools in our County.

Congressman Jimmy Panetta (CA-19) has been a key supporter in making this vision a reality, recently securing $1 million in federal funding to support this initiative. Yesterday, it was my pleasure to join Rep. Panetta in a roundtable discussion on behavioral health in schools hosted and the impact this funding will have. We shared our roadmap detailing the facility, staffing, systems and funding components to these centers are both successful and sustainable. For more on the event, see the story on KSBW.

This is a challenging moment for our youth. But it is also a unique opportunity. We are working more closely and collaboratively as a school community than ever before, hand in hand with the districts, families and our partners in the nonprofit sector and in local, state and federal government. In particular, I want to acknowledge the pioneering role and continued leadership of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District when it comes to student wellness. The Wellness Centers are only one piece of the puzzle, and we are fortunate to have so many systems already in place both on and off campus.

Yours in education and equity,
Dr. Faris Sabbah
County Superintendent of Schools