Senator Padilla, Secretary Cardona Highlight Efforts to Address Mental Health Pandemic Impacts on California’s K-12 Students

Padilla hosts conversation on student mental health awareness

CALIFORNIA — Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) hosted a virtual conversation with U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona during Mental Health Awareness Month on the mental health impact of the pandemic on California’s K-12 students. Senator Padilla and Secretary Cardona were also joined by California Superintendent Tony Thurmond as well as statewide and local leaders to highlight resources from the American Rescue Plan available for schools, students, and families.

In December, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared a “youth mental health crisis” due to the pandemic that has significantly impacted student’s educational performance. Senator Padilla has been steadfast in his approach to addressing this rising crisis by introducing legislation like the Comprehensive Mental Health in Schools Pilot Program Act

“We’ve been fighting for many years to end the stigma and shame around mental health, but our young people are suffering. We must invest in the resources that students need, especially in underserved communities where the pandemic hit hardest,” said Senator Padilla. “I’m grateful for the partnership of California’s school districts, Secretary Cardona, and the entire Biden-Harris administration in working to advance initiatives to support students, families, and school staff.”

“Thank you Senator Padilla for hosting this important event and for your support of the American Rescue Plan,” said Secretary Cardona. “In California, school communities are using American Rescue Plan funds to provide students with additional instructional time, tutoring, and mental health services. The Department is 100 percent committed to partnering with states on implementing these efforts. And it was an honor to join this conversation.”

“Given the struggles students have faced during the pandemic, addressing their social-emotional needs is job number one,” said California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “As a former social worker, student mental health has always been a top priority, and we will continue to work with state and national partners to secure and connect California students to resources and supports, including increasing the number of mental health clinicians.”

“We have experienced collective trauma due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Children and families faced job instability, food and housing insecurity and devastating loss. These challenges have placed a strain on our students’ mental wellbeing, creating barriers to learning and overall academic success,” said Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo, MSW, Ed.D. “We must prioritize mental and emotional healing in our schools to create stronger futures for our students and communities.”

“Coming back from a post-pandemic world, we know that schools and districts that act quickly can mitigate the rising rates of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness in our students,” said Nichi Avina, 2022 California Teacher of the Year. “Grateful for Senator Padilla and Secretary Cardona’s leadership to bring more resources to the classroom.”

“Over the course of this pandemic, and especially in the year of online learning, students’ mental health has been devastated,” said Rana Banankhah, Modesto High School student and Student Board Member on the State Board of Education. “The future of our students’ well-being depends on the actions we take to address the mental health crisis right now. I’m proud to see our state and national leaders, like Senator Padilla, Secretary Cardona, and Superintendent Thurmond, taking substantive actions to support student mental health and I hope this momentum continues.”

To date, Congress has provided over $15 billion to California through the American Rescue Plan—which Padilla supported—in education grant federal funding to help California school districts respond to the educational challenges caused by the pandemic.

A copy of the webinar can be downloaded HERE.


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