Blue Shield of California launches mental health initiative for students

While studies show that nearly one in five children live with a mental health issue, many of those same children do not receive the treatment they need. By one estimate, the total number of children with untreated mental health disorders is something close to 3.3 million. 

To address this issue in the most populous state in the country, Blue Shield of California is launching a new initiative to raise awareness on the mental health crisis affecting California’s youth and improve the accessibility of mental health resources in the state. 

 

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Titled BlueSky, the multi-year effort will feature a collaboration between Blue Shield and the California Department of Education, as well as several nonprofit organizations. It will launch initially in 19 middle and high schools in Oakland Unified and San Leandro Unified school districts in Alameda County, and Sweetwater Union, Oceanside Unified and Juvenile Court & Community Schools in San Diego County. 

Through BlueSky, Blue Shield intends to provide additional mental health clinicians in schools, train teachers to identify signs of mental health issues, and connect students to resources for in-person and online mental health support.

No one is immune to adversity, yet each person’s future depends on his or her ability to cope through life’s challenges. Our goal through Blue Shield of California BlueSky is to empower and support students by helping them develop resilience and emotional well-being today, so they have a lifetime of good health in front of them,” said Paul Markovich, President and CEO of Blue Shield of California. 

A central component of the program involves directing mental health resources to school personnel so that more children can be reached. In coordination with the Department of Education, the program is set to fund Youth Mental Health First Aid training for thousands of public-school teachers and staff. 

In addition to enhanced access, Blue Shield also believes the program will lead to better classroom environments for both students and teachers. 

Having these resources also helps the rest of the classroom.  It helps the teacher not feel like they have to be the disciplinarian and that they can see this for what it is – it’s acting out and it’s a sign that the kid is distressed. So, if you have the resources at the school where you can refer them to the office, then they can actually get some professional mental health therapy, in real-time at the school, and then the teacher can go back to teaching and the rest of the students can go back to learning,” said Tanya Dansky Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Blue Shield.

From the nonprofit sector, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) will contribute to the program by helping create and expand student-led clubs to reduce mental health stigma on high schools campuses throughout the state.

Going forward, the initiative will be evaluated by a research team from the University of California, San Francisco’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies to determine its impact on student and school-level outcomes.