L.A. County education office: Addressing mental health crisis

To the editor: I commend the Times editorial staff for drawing attention to a serious problem in education – the mental health of our children, which was worrisome before COVID-19.

The pandemic has added to our urgency. Almost every student in Los Angeles County and beyond has experienced some level of trauma since March 2020.

These challenges are forcing education leaders to identify support measures for students through social workers, school counselors and trauma support teams, backed by professional development to prepare staff to recognize signs of danger.

As a social worker and mental health professional, I know that we must devote resources to identifying and removing stigmas related to trauma and mental health.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education is creating new programs that support the mental health of students. This week, I announced the appointment of the Head of the Welfare and Support Services Division. The office is also expanding employee assistance services for the Education Program, which advises school staff.

In addition, we launched the Professional Development Series that provides teachers with the tools to teach and enhance social and emotional learning skills. We partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in a new program that helps schools recover from the pandemic with grants to teachers, schools, and districts.

Finally, our office continues to expand the community schools model in partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. As your article accurately explained, the well-being of our children depends on the support of the entire community.

Debra Duardo, Downey

The writer is the superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

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