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Arts Partnership Helps Address Student Mental Health Issues

“Sacramento Healthy HeARTs and Minds” Involves 26 Schools

Young student standing on the sidewalk holding a bag of markers and art supplies

As part of the Sacramento Healthy HeARTs and Minds program, 10,000 art kits are being distributed. (Photo courtesy James Tan, TRUSD)

The Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) is collaborating with the City of Sacramento Office of Arts and Culture on a new program that combines artists, community mentors, and mental health specialists to assist students most affected by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and related school closures. Called Sacramento Healthy HeARTs and Minds, the program uses the arts to help address mental health issues, trauma, absenteeism, and other effects of the pandemic on already at-risk youth.

“We know teaching the arts—along with teaching other important subjects such as history, math, and biology—helps create a more well-rounded student,” said Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David W. Gordon. “By using creativity and imagination, we will find solutions to our problems, political and social.”

The City of Sacramento has hired 50 mentors and artists with expertise in genres ranging from visual art to the spoken word. The program prioritizes schools with students living in Sacramento’s Neighborhood Development Action Team focus areas. Funding comes from the $89 million the City of Sacramento received as part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.

SCOE is providing training to 26 schools, which will work to develop a suite of virtual services for students who have surfacing social or emotional issues. A support team (which includes a mental health specialist, a community mentor, and an artist) is working with each site and will help students virtually. Artists are also developing an online residency that will be used to help each student shape his or her personal narrative through art.

Students participating in the program include those enrolled in SCOE’s Juvenile Court Schools and Community Schools programs, plus students in the Sacramento City Unified and Twin Rivers Unified school districts.