A popular, decades-old mental health counseling program will continue to operate in 90 New Jersey school districts under a compromise allowing Gov. Phil Murphyto move on With a separate plan to create a statewide network of off-campus therapy services.
It’s a victory for fierce supporters of school youth services — including high school graduates, teachers and state lawmakers — who have argued that the programs provided a safe haven for troubled children.
Murphy hasn’t yet officially announced the deal, but he did indicate it was coming during a television appearance on Tuesday night.
“We stepped back and said these programs are great, but we felt we needed to create a broader network. Because everyone’s mental health has been affected by this pandemic,” Murphy told News 12 New Jersey.
He added that “people should expect” an announcement that the state will own both programs “at least for a period of time.”
“We would be very comfortable funding programs that are already in place, but we would also implement the hub-and-spoke idea to cast that broader net,” said the governor.
Last month, State Commissioner for Children and Families Christine Norbot-Bayer announced statewide plan Called the New Jersey Statewide Student Support Network that will host school assemblies, workshops, mentoring programs, and off-site counseling for students who need help most.
To help pay for the new network, Norbot Bayer planned to use the $30 million that ran youth services programs in schools in 90 counties, which were established by Governor Thomas H. Kean’s administration in 1988. Existing programs will close by the end of the current school year in June, according to her plan.
Commissioner too I proposed cutting its financing two years ago As a cost-cutting maneuver when the country’s public finances appeared to be in a precarious state due to the pandemic.
Supporters fought successfully to save the program in 2020, and now it looks like they’ve won again.
State Sen. Finn Gopal, D-Monmouth, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, issued a statement late Tuesday thanking Murphy for reaching a compromise.
“I am happy to see that government funding for school youth services will continue in the 90 districts that have these services,” said Gopal. “These services are vital and need to continue so that there is no disruption to any services. Here in Monmouth County, The Source at Red Bank has been a statewide model for true mental health services.”
“At the same time, we must continue a statewide system so that every child in the state has access to quality mental health services,” the lawmaker added. “The two could certainly happen at the same time and I thank the governor’s office for going in that direction.”
National research shows that one in five teens has severe mental health problems and youth suicide rates continue to rise. Making high-quality behavioral health care accessible to all of our students with mental health needs must be the highest priority.”
The current school program serves only 25,000 to 30,000 students, about 2% of the total 1.3 million students in public schools, according to the Department of Children and Families.
The “hub-and-talk” model envisioned by Norbutt Baer would consist at the state level of 15 centers, each serving one or more counties. Each center will have a budget of about $3.2 million to hire a director, assistant director, support staff and mental health clinicians, according to the department. The proposal said a committee of students, parents, school staff, community leaders and social service representatives would advise the center on required services.
The hubs would provide three levels or levels of intervention: the one that would host school assemblies and workshops to promote mental well-being and discourage disruptive behaviors such as bullying; one that would offer mentoring or small group sessions to students identified as “at risk” for behavioral or mental health issues; and those that connect students in need of assessment and referral to counseling outside of school.
It is not clear when the statewide network will be launched. At a total price of about $48 million, Norbot Bayer said in October, the network will be operational at the start of the 2023-24 school year.
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