Funding for AISD Mental Health Centers is a Community Affair
By Meagan Anderson Longley, VP of Community Impact
Last week, we joined stakeholders from across the community to celebrate the important work of Austin Independent School District’s (AISD) mental health centers. A recent change in federal funding meant that AISD was faced with the reality of closing 16 of their campus-based, professionally staffed mental health centers for the 2018-2019 school year. Thanks to a groundswell of local support—including over $100,000 donated by Austin Community Foundation fundholders—the funding gap was closed.
We gathered in the beautiful library at Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy and heard directly from faculty and staff. In a passionate introduction to the school, Principal Christina Almaraz-Ortiz described her commitment to meeting each student’s unique needs—mind, body, and soul. On a campus in which over 95 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunches, those needs span far beyond the classroom. The on-campus mental health center is a critical piece of Principal Ortiz’s commitment, and the on-site therapist from Austin Travis County Integral Care has become an important thread in the fabric of the Sadler Means community.
- In 2017-18, the AISD Police Department responded to 781 mental health crisis calls, an increase of 63 percent since 2013-14.
- Students face significant barriers to getting mental health support, including cost, language, transportation, navigating health insurance coverage and more.
- School counselors alone cannot meet the need and are able to refer highest-need students to a trusted professional on campus.
- Students are presenting at the mental health centers reporting issues related to trauma, self-injury, suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide and other mental health crises.
- With support, students can heal and excel academically and socially.
ACF is proud to join forces with our colleagues from St. David’s Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Austin Travis County Integral Care, Seton Ascension, and AISD to ensure the continued services delivered through school-based mental health centers.