Mountain View, Calif. – Mental health counselors at the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District noticed a shift among the students: not only were more struggling, but more were asking for help – a pattern that later emerged across the U.S. in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We had to refocus fast," said William Blair, the school district's wellness coordinator. "Fortunately, we have had historic grant support from the El Camino Healthcare District that now allows us to broaden our services and support students with an array of options, from in- person counseling and crisis intervention to referrals to social service agencies in the community."
School-based health programs were introduced more than a century ago yet are often the first programs to go during budget cuts, according to the National Institutes of Health, despite the fact that studies repeatedly find these programs help not only students, but parents as well.
The El Camino Healthcare District and El Camino Health are working to shift that trend by investing millions in school-based nursing and mental health programs. During the next year, they will provide $2.55 million to Santa Clara County school districts to help improve the physical and emotional health of all students.
"We believe that so many difficult social issues we see now have their roots in adolescence, and that is when we can be most effective," said George Ting, M.D., chair of the El Camino Healthcare District board of directors. "The El Camino Healthcare District has a history of investing in the healthy minds and bodies of our youth. We expect more than 17,000 students will benefit from programs funded by these grants."
About half of the funds allow schools to employ on-site school nurses while the other half allows schools to employ mental health counselors and therapists. Of the total, $1.474 million comes from the El Camino Healthcare District with the remainder from El Camino Health.
In addition, all of the grants from the El Camino Healthcare District are awarded for two years, meaning recipient school districts will receive an equal amount for two consecutive years. This is a new approach to offer additional stability for schools, staff, and students.
"Youth health and wellness is a significant issue in our community and our focus continues to be on ways to promote a healthy mind and body," said Dan Woods, CEO of El Camino Health. “We’re fortunate that we can support these vital programs in our community."
Mental health grants cover individual and group therapy, crisis intervention, safety assessments and social skills learning lessons. Nursing grants allow Licensed Vocational Nurses and Registered Nurses to conduct vision and hearing screenings, monitor children with chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes, check immunizations and provide emergency care for all students.
Taken together, the grants connect students with the nursing or counseling help they need and provide resources within school districts to give counselors and administrators a holistic view of a student's overall health and any struggles they may be facing.
"For every student, whatever support they need, we want to be able to support them however we can," said Blair, with the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. "Sometimes it's something big and sometimes it's just having an adult to talk with."
The following school districts received grants from the El Camino Healthcare District and El Camino Health:
- Cambrian School District
- Campbell Union School District
- Community Health Awareness Council integrated school-based services at Sunnyvale School District
- Cupertino Union School District
- Los Altos School District
- Los Gatos Union School District
- Mount Pleasant School District
- Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District
- Mountain View Whisman School District
- Pacific Clinics at Campbell Union High School District
- Sunnyvale School District
About the El Camino Healthcare District
The El Camino Hospital District was established by voter approval in 1956 in accordance with The El Camino Hospital District was established by voter approval in 1956 in accordance with California Local Hospital District Law. The purpose of the district is to establish, maintain and operate or provide 3 of 3 assistance in the operation of health facilities and other health care services, provider groups and organizations that are necessary for the maintenance of good physical and mental health in the communities served by the district. The district, now known as El Camino Healthcare District, encompasses most of Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, a large portion of Sunnyvale, and small sections of Cupertino, Santa Clara, and Palo Alto. The publicly elected El Camino Healthcare District Board of Directors approves tax dollar expenditures, including expenditures for the award-winning Community Benefit program. Community Benefit funds are granted each year to local nonprofits, schools and government programs that provide critical health services to the underserved. All district board meetings are publicly noticed, open to the public, and available for viewing on the district website.
About El Camino Health
El Camino Health has served the communities of Santa Clara County for more than 60 years, with nationally recognized physicians and nurses at two not-for-profit acute care hospitals in Los Gatos and Mountain View, and primary care, multi-specialty care, and urgent care locations across the region. El Camino Health is dedicated to giving patients high-quality care utilizing the most advanced technology and research, delivering results first and respect always.
Aside from achieving outstanding patient outcomes, the hospitals have earned numerous awards for clinical excellence, including being named one of the World's Best Hospitals 2023 by Newsweek and becoming the San Francisco Bay Area's first Magnet hospital, earning four consecutive designations from the American Nurses Credentialing Center for nursing excellence.
Key service lines include cancer care, cardiovascular care, maternity care, mental health and addiction services, orthopedics, pulmonology, urology and women's health. Visit elcaminohealth.org to learn more.