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LETTER: “Yes” Vote Tuesday Supports Our Kid’s Mental Health

In a letter to MyRye.com, Forest Avenue resident and licensed psychologist Sasha Blackwell talks about the mental health crisis impacting our kids and how a “yes” vote for the school budget on Tuesday, May 17th is a vote to support our children’s mental health and well-being.

Dear Editor:

(PHOTO: Dr. Sasha Blackwell of Forest Avenue.)
(PHOTO: Dr. Sasha Blackwell of Forest Avenue.)

Please Support the RCSD 2022-2023 Budget.

I am a Licensed Psychologist and Nationally Certified School Psychologist working with children in private practice and a contracting provider in Westchester Country for the Committee of Preschool Education. I am also a parent of four children who attend school in the Rye City School District.

I have seen first-hand the toll the two years of the pandemic and its associated lockdowns and health fears has had on the mental health of children. My colleagues and I have seen the significant increase in the need for mental health services for children and adolescents. Many of my colleagues have waiting lists and are full in their capacity to see additional clients.

Anecdotally, I have seen an increase in anxiety, emotion regulation difficulties, executive functioning deficits, tics and repetitive behaviors, relational aggression and bullying, social skills deficits, screen addiction and family conflict in young children that I see in my practice. My peers who see adolescents have seen similar trends as well as increases in self- harm, depression and anxiety, suicidal ideation, social isolation, and academic disengagement. Both local and national data confirm these alarming trends.

Several advocacy organizations have sounded an alarm to highlight the current mental health emergency in youth including- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Children’s Hospital Association, American Psychological Association, and National Association of School Psychologists. In addition, in December of 2021, the U.S. Surgeon General released a public health advisory addressing the youth mental health crisis. These organizations have made several recommendations for addressing this national crisis. In the forefront of these recommendations are increased funding to effective models of school-based mental health care, the provision of support to and training for teachers to promote student mental health in the classroom, and the implementation of school-based prevention-based efforts and early identification measures.

Beginning last year, the Rye City School District dramatically increased student mental health services through Effective School Solutions, a private company that provides contracted mental health professionals that provide services to students in the Middle and High School. The District was able to pay for these professionals’ time through government monies provided via the CARES Act.

Now that the CARES funding has come to an end, the funding for the two social workers must come from the school district. The 2022-2023 school district budget pays for these two vital professionals and adds a new elementary school-level counselor to be shared between Midland, Milton, and Osborn Schools. It also provides funding for Therapeutic Support Services for students who need immediate, acute, intensive mental health support.

A vote “yes” is a vote to support our children’s mental health and well-being. Please join me in voting “yes” for the 2022-2023 school district budget on May 17.

Sincerely,
Sasha Blackwell, Ph.D., NCSP

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