Supervisor Fiona Ma: Mental Health Services for
The SF Board of Supervisors and the School District Committee held
a special hearing Nov. 8 to discuss the state of on-site mental health
services at San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) sites and
to evaluate the needs and services currently provided. Several
experts, representing the Mayor's Office of Children Youth and their
Families, SF Department of Public Health, SFUSD, various non-profit
providers and professionals at various Wellness Centers and school
sites, testified about the growing need for mental health services
at all schools.
The following morning, as I read C.W. Nevius' column in the SF Chronicle
titled "Principal's blunt look at teen suicide," I wondered
whether the availability of on-site mental health services at Clayton
Valley High School would have prevented its recent spate of teen suicides.
It was very evident from the hearing the day before that a minimum
level of mental health services should be mandated at all schools
to address depression, stress, violence and other issues facing our
young people today.
About four years ago, Wellness Centers were created at seven high
schools (Galileo Academy, Abraham Lincoln, Lowell, Mission, George
Washington, John O'Connell and Thurgood Marshall) to provide free,
confidential services to students, including health education and
assessment; mental health and substance abuse counseling; support
and empowerment groups; crisis intervention; and reproductive health
services. Community-based organizations provide students with referrals
to public and private health providers and educate youth about resources
and services available both on and off campus.
Mental health related services are also available at various elementary,
middle and high schools throughout the City. However, given the band-aid
approach to services, it was concluded that a SFUSD comprehensive
mental health plan was needed to assess the needs at all schools,
as well as to address and meet the severe needs of students at the
county day schools, a specific concern expressed by Supervisor Sophie
The recent passage of state Proposition 63, assessing a 1 percent
surcharge on personal incomes above $1 million for mental health funding,
could provide $50 million annually to San Francisco. School Board
Member Jill Wynns suggested a carve-out of at least $3 million of
the funds to expand the Wellness Centers at all high schools in San
With these concerns and recommendations in mind, I submitted a resolution
urging the mayor and the SF Department of Public Health to move forward
with three actions: create a Proposition 63 Children and Youth Stakeholder
Sub-Committee to create a comprehensive, child-specific plan for services;
to dedicate a portion of the Proposition 63 funds to children and
youth mental health services with a focus on prevention and for the
funds dedicated to be consistent with the percentage of children affected
in the overall populations; and that Proposition 63 funding should
also be allocated for expansion of the Wellness Centers program.
Over the last 10 years, there has been a great increase in access
to mental health services for youth in San Francisco. The reasons
are many, including earlier identification of mental health issues
by SFUSD, the presence of state-mandated services for special education
students, the state Mental Health Parity Act and the growth of the
Healthy Families and Healthy Kids programs. However, there is still
much more that needs to be done if San Francisco is to meet its goal
of being a family-friendly city. The actions we have taken jointly
at the school district and the Board of Supervisors takes us one step
closer to this goal.
Fiona Ma is a San Francisco supervisor representing District 4.