Stop the Proposed Changes to the Washington, DC School Mental Health Program

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Nathan Luecking
Nathan Luecking signed this petition

Dr. Tanya Royster, the Director of the Department of Behavioral Health in Washington, DC is proposing a drastic and hugely negative  change to the role of DBH's School Mental Health Program (SMHP). The changes would eliminate all clinical therapy services provided by the SMHP, stripping over 900 District students yearly of the clinical mental health services that they desperately need and deserve.

The changes proposed by Dr. Royster will forcibly remove all clinical services provided  by the SMHP therapists, while instead pulling dedicated clinicians from their full-time schools (predominantly in the District’s most vulnerable areas) and redistributing them around several schools in a part- time capacity. SHMP licensed clinical therapist will be delivering mental health presentations to students most likely have had no prior contact or relationship with SMHP. Clinicians will essentially become "consultants" and serve each school only for small amounts of time. While Dr. Royster has made the argument that she will be staffing all DC schools with a mental health clinician, she will be doing so in a very limited, watered-down capacity that looks much better on paper than in actual service to our children with whom the program has been working with successfully for the past 17 years.

The proposed changes are currently scheduled to  go into effect at the beginning of the 2017/2018 school year. These changes have not been reviewed by parents, teachers, administrators, and even our city council members. These proposed  changes have caused much confusion and outrage among both DC Public Schools and DC Public Charter Schools, teachers, administrators as well as many  organizations that have partnered  with the SMHP. At a recent City Council hearing, for example, the proposed changes were met with frustration and deep concern by Councilmember's Vincent Gray (Chair of the Committee that oversees the DBH), David Grosso and Trayon White as to the timing and practicality of these changes. Of particular concern, under these changes school-aged children will be left to fend for mental health services through outside providers whom only accept  Medicaid insurance,  an insurance system fraught with inefficiency and whose very existence is continually threatened by the current  Presidential administration. 

It is extremely hard to justify pulling highly trained clinical therapists from our most vulnerable students especially during times of rising  violence and repeated exposure to trauma. Unfortunately, Dr. Royster's proposal will do just that. I ask that you consider our position and what drastically altering the well- respected SMHP would mean for the children of DC.  Thank you so much for participating is this incredibly important petition.