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Central Coast mental health professionals weigh in on youth mental health during the pandemic

Posted at 11:40 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 02:40:20-05

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham is hoping to give students better access to mental health resources.

Cunningham introduced a bill package that would give K-12 students better access to mental health professionals in public schools.

Local clinical psychologist, Tim Schenberg, says the cumulative effects of the pandemic have been weighing on children and teens.

"I think the reality is that there is not enough resources for children and teenagers and the first point of contact for most kids is a school teacher or school counselor and they are always looking for resources and they frankly need more, they need more," he said.

AB-1080 would allow school districts to partner with outside mental health providers or clinics to provide mental health treatment during the school day. Also, AB-1081would provide $500 million to the districts to help cover the cost.

Assemblyman Cunningham wrote in a statement:

“The pandemic has had a major impact on our children’s mental health and wellbeing. School closures have limited the time kids spend around one another, and extracurricular activities like sports, music, and drama remain severely limited. By increasing both the funding and the pool of accessible mental health professionals available for our kids, we can make sure children have the mental health resources they need."
Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham

According to the CDC, mental health-related visits to emergency departments increased during the first six months of the pandemic. Mental health-related emergency visits by children aged 5-11 increased by 24%, while visits by children aged 12-17 increased 31% year-over-year.

Central Coast marriage and family therapist, Michael Harris, says having someone other than family members to talk to- even if it is just through zoom can help.

"Just knowing that there is something else, if things are not going well at home, just knowing that there is another direction and a safe place to go to, I think that can be a huge benefit," he said.