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Congresswoman Tours Mental Health and Wellness Program

Vernon E. Greer Elementary Is One of 60 Centers of Wellness Countywide

Doris Matsui standing next to Lien Xi, giving a high-five to a student entering a classroom

Congresswoman Doris Matsui (left) joins School-Based Mental Health and Wellness Clinician Lien Xi in greeting a student at Greer Elementary School in Galt.

Take a minute to reflect on your school years, and you can probably remember times when you faced challenges. From feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork to difficult family issues, disagreements with classmates, bullying, or complex identity questions, having direct access to a trusted mental health team at school can provide immediate support that helps students succeed in school and life. A successful partnership between the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) and the Sacramento County Department of Health Services is giving students that exact opportunity, placing mental health clinicians in local elementary, middle, and high schools to help the schools become Centers of Wellness.

Yesterday, Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D–CA) visited one of these sites, Vernon E. Greer Elementary School in Galt (Galt Joint Union Elementary School District), to learn more about the School-Based Mental Health and Wellness Partnership that aims to station mental health practitioners in each of Sacramento County’s more than 300 schools.

The Congresswoman was accompanied on her tour by Supervisor Pat Hume from the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David W. Gordon, SCOE Executive Director Christopher Williams, Ed.L.D., MSW, District Superintendent Lois Yount, and Michelle Besse, Health Program Manager from the County Department of Health Services. The visitors met Lien Xi, Greer Elementary’s mental health and wellness clinician, who helped explain how the program is cohesively integrated into the school. One of the students, named Lincoln, welcomed the visitors, showing them the “Calming Corner” and explaining how he and his classmates use their social-emotional “Mood Meter”—a visual tool that helps them identify their emotions and learn ways to regulate and express how they’re feeling.

“This is fascinating,” Congresswoman Matsui observed. “I see a lot of these types of programs that become very complicated, but this one seems pretty straightforward. At the center is the student. Plus, you’re getting buy-in from people at the local level, so it’s not top-down. Best of all, funding is available for this work in a very creative way.” The program is supported by funding from Medi-Cal, California’s public health insurance program for low-income individuals, including families with children.

The Congresswoman noted that students are traditionally sent to the principal’s office if they get in trouble, but this program takes a different approach with relationship-building designed to prevent the need for treatment. “The school’s mental health clinician works alongside the teachers and case workers where they can easily check on students and see how they are doing,” she said. “It’s just part of daily life, and I think that’s really fabulous. It doesn’t stigmatize anyone.”

Galt Joint Union Elementary School District Superintendent Lois Yount explained that Greer Elementary was the first in the district to adopt the program. The school has become a model for the rest of the district. “All the staff has been very open to the support. The program is evolving, getting stronger, and adjusting to the individual needs of each school.”

Congresswoman Matsui also joined colleagues in Washington, D.C., this month to introduce a bipartisan bill (the Ensuring Excellence in Mental Health Act) that would permanently fund the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics model, allowing all states to integrate comprehensive mental health and substance abuse services into their healthcare systems. An overview of their bill is available online.

Schools As Centers of Wellness

The School-Based Mental Health and Wellness Partnership has placed more than 60 mental health professionals at elementary, middle, and high school sites with the goal of reaching every school in Sacramento County. It recently hired more than 100 new staff—including mental health support staff and clinicians—to work with local schools. The program was launched in 2020 in collaboration with the Sacramento County Department of Health Services. The vision is to identify the mental health needs of students as early as possible, provide treatment and care for those identified, reduce the effects of unmet mental health needs, and lessen the stigma associated with mental health needs.

Doris Matsui, and Dave Gordon talking to a student

Supervisor Pat Hume (left) and County Superintendent Gordon (right) joined Congresswoman Matsui and other visitors on the school tour.

Student standing in front of the Calming Corner

Students showed off their “Calming Corner” and explained how they use their social-emotional “Mood Meter.”

Visitors and school officials posing under Vernon E. Greer Elementary School sign

At Greer Elementary School, Congresswoman Matsui met with educators, administrators, public health representatives, and other local elected officials to learn about schools as Centers of Wellness.