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Groundbreaking Initiative to Provide Mental Health Services

Partnership Helps Make Schools “Centers of Wellness”

Dave Gordon speaking at podium with Peter Beilenson standing nearby

County Superintendent Gordon (right) and Dr. Peter Beilenson, Director of the Sacramento County Department of Health Services, announced a countywide mental health initiative that will begin rolling out this fall.

The COVID-19 crisis forced schools to go virtual in March, creating increased anxiety and stress levels for students, families, and educators. As schools plan to reopen, meeting the social and emotional wellness needs of all students will be a priority.

Today, David W. Gordon, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools, and Dr. Peter Beilenson, Director of the Sacramento County Department of Health Services, announced a groundbreaking partnership that will place mental health clinicians in every school in the county over the next several years, making schools “Centers of Wellness” for their local communities. With approval from the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, the initial cohort will start this fall with 11 schools.

“When schools reopen, we will face extraordinary student mental health challenges,” said Superintendent Gordon. “Research shows young people are experiencing mental distress because of the disruptions of school closures, suspending of activities, and maintaining social and physical distancing.”

“This is a real combination of the health department working with the school system to work to bring to bear appropriate services to help kids become as well as they can be,” Dr. Beilenson said.

The goal is for every public school in Sacramento County to have a mental health clinician, or ready access to one. The Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) will work with school districts to create a phased rollout, beginning with schools with the greatest needs.

Clinicians working in each school will be SCOE employees, supported by sustainable funding from Medi-Cal, California’s public health insurance program for low-income individuals, including families with children. The vision is to identify the mental health needs of students as early as possible, provide treatment and care for those identified, reduce the “downstream” effects of unmet mental health needs, and lessen the stigma associated with mental health needs.

SCOE will also provide professional learning for all school and mental health staff to create a system-wide continuum of care for mental health and wellness, linked to the state’s new social and emotional learning guiding principles. The program will include a rigorous evaluation, drawing on extensive data from the mental health landscape and information from Sacramento County districts and schools.

Sacramento County Center of Wellness Launch Sites

High Schools

  • Cordova High School (Folsom Cordova USD)
  • Hiram W. Johnson High School (Sacramento City USD)

Middle Schools

  • Mills Middle School (Folsom Cordova USD)
  • James Rutter Middle School (Elk Grove USD)

Elementary Schools

  • Ethel I. Baker Elementary School (Sacramento City USD)
  • Howe Avenue Elementary School (San Juan USD)
  • Isleton Elementary School (River Delta USD)
  • Noralto Elementary School (Twin Rivers USD)
  • Samuel Kennedy Elementary School (Elk Grove USD)
  • Taylor Street Elementary School (Robla SD)
  • Woodridge Elementary School (Twin Rivers USD)


Update 6/26/20: Added additional launch site.
Update 8/25/20: Added video about initial cohort.

Dignitaries wearing masks stand apart while Superintendent Gordon speaks

L-R: County Board of Education President Bina Lefkovitz, Robla Superintendent Ruben Reyes, Sacramento City Superintendent Jorge Aguilar, Dr. Beilenson, and Superintendent Gordon.

Dave Gordon speaking in front of news camera at press conference