CPS’ New Mental Health Initiative Offers Huge Opportunities to Help Students of Color

You know who’s about to get a mental health team to help them live healthier lives? Chicago’s students, at 500 schools around the city over the next few years, paid by the funds directed to the city from the American Rescue Plan stimulus package.

Chalkbeat Chicago has more on the new mental health pilot program at North-Grand High School in Hermosa:

Monday’s announcement of a $24 million mental health plan offers a first look at how Chicago plans to spend some of the $1.8 billion in federal stimulus funds coming its way. Officials plan to spend the money across three years to expand the number of behavioral support teams from 200 schools to closer to 500 and enlist more help from community groups through grants.

Chalkbeat continues that this program is intended to address the city’s disparities in culturally relevant and trauma-supported education. 

Chicago Public Schools will have to remain vigilant with the teams they hire at schools. The district’s current demographic data has Hispanic students comprising 47% of the city’s schools, Black students at 36%, white students at 11%, and Asian students at 4%. 

Given current school staff demographics, the city can close some meaningful gaps by including more Hispanic, Black, and Asian members of their incoming mental health care teams.

From Chicago Public Schools.

This isn’t about fulfilling quotas in hiring. It’s important for students to have multiple adults who have been in similar environments themselves—so they can offer helpful advice that will get through to students who recognize themselves in their role models. Data backs this up: When you hire school staffers who look like their students, those kids do better academically and economically later on—and so do their peers of any racial background. 

Chalkbeat lays out some hypothetical roles for these mental health team members, from discipline deans working with extra staff counselors or “community partners” to reach absentee students without punishment as a first measure. 

But each school community has its own identity. What ideas are your schools eager to implement for your students’ mental health? Who are the community partners you’d like to work with most? 

Get in touch with us and let’s get some dialogues and partnerships going, because this city’s kids deserve to be significantly less stressed than they have been throughout this pandemic. 

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Rob Samuelson

Rob Samuelson

Rob Samuelson is a digital media manager at brightbeam, based in his hometown of Chicago.

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