Contact Us
© 2023 Association of California School Administrators
Congressman Doug LaMalfa signs the Say Something, Do Something pledge with Marysville Joint USD Superintendent Fal Asrani.
District works with community to take action on mental wellness
August 7, 2023
The following was submitted by Marysville Joint USD Superintendent Fal Asrani, Ed.D.
Marysville Joint Unified School District has implemented a wellness program that has permeated not just the 23 schools it serves, but has evolved into a countywide initiative. It is a first-of-its-kind communitywide call to action that has received support from Congressman Doug LaMalfa and Assemblyman James Gallagher, and has drawn interest from the Office of U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. This innovative initiative is also being discussed for replication across neighboring counties.
The district’s Strategic Plan adopted by the board in 2022 includes the following goals:
Goal 1.1: Design community partnerships to increase mental health support, counseling, and other social services. Goal 3.2: Improve and expand community and family engagement in schools. Goal 3.3: Expand community partnerships for well-being and safety.
MJUSD first funded its wellness program in the 2019-20 LCAP and hired a wellness consultant for staff and student wellness support. That program has grown in response to high levels of mental health related needs exacerbated by the pandemic. Access to mental and physical wellness resources has always been a significant need in Yuba County, identified as a rural community with 15.6 percent of the population at or below the poverty line, median income of $21,000 below the state median of $62,000, and an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent, compared to the state’s 4.1 percent. The 20.6 percent teen birth rate is nearly double that of the state’s 10.8 percent, and the crime rate is similarly higher than the state. In 1992, national attention was drawn to Lindhurst High School which had one of the first California school shootings and resulted in significant trauma still felt across the district. Lindhurst High School experienced another trauma in March 2023 when a student committed suicide on campus.
Since 2017, community homelessness has increased by 200 percent and the LCAP funds a homeless liaison position to support families with donations such as food, clothing and school supplies from local unions, Kiwanis and other business organizations. Wellness, learning and attendance go hand in hand. Since 2020-21, MJUSD has conducted 215 student suicidal risk assessments and 923 cases of reported child abuse. MJUSD’s 2021 annual community parent and student survey indicated that 89 percent considered bullying and mental wellness to be a significant need, and 91 percent identified mental health and wellness as the highest areas for district’s support. Since 2020, MJUSD has experienced a significant increase in suspensions and a 25 percent increase in chronic absenteeism.
Between 2020-23, 959 student referrals have been made to the Student Attendance Review Board, with over 420 cases resolved. MJUSD has involved parents, staff and several community organizations in developing and assisting with wellness related actions on the LCAP. The district’s wellness program has expanded significantly with support from two foundational groups that have spearheaded this work. First is the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee, established in September 2021, which includes two board members and community and business leaders who identify new and existing partnerships around wellness and safety to improve school culture and well-being. Second is the Yuba Safety Community Task Force formed in 2021, which helped identify actions and resources to improve school safety and wellness.
Local partners like the Yuba County Board of Supervisors, Marysville City Council, sheriff’s office, public works, Beale Air Force Base, Yuba Water Agency, Sutter Yuba Homeless Consortium and Yuba County Health and Human Services have come together to drive wellness initiatives. Based on feedback, MJUSD Adult Education has been providing and expanding ongoing workshops on topics such as mental well-being, trauma, suicide, self-harm, cyber bullying and living with violence. The district has also developed a calendar of monthly wellness-related awareness activities like red and yellow ribbon weeks, National Suicide Prevention Week and National Mental Wellbeing Week to raise student and family awareness.
In 2021, the MJUSD Board of Trustees approved a partnership with the county Health and Human Services Department and Yuba County Office of Education to establish the first countywide Community Wellness Hub at Lindhurst High School. Families now access mental health services in the Community Wellness Hub and the impact is evident. The Community Wellness Hub served over 1,000 students in just the first month alone, and since it opened its doors in January, over 2,660 students/parents have visited the Wellness Hub. A 10th grade student stated, “When I first walked into the wellness center, I felt like I was safe … I was comfortable and felt like I could hang out and take my mind off things without having to worry about being judged or mask my feelings.”
An English learner student said, “Se siente tan lindo aqui, no me lo esperaba.” [“It feels so nice here, I didn’t expect it.”]Data identified the top three reasons for visits as anxiety, depression and family trauma. Staffed by three full-time health/wellness professionals, services are robust and responsive to real needs and allow families, with or without insurance, to access medical resources through this one-stop process. Licensed Clinical Social Workers scheduled more than 300 sessions ranging from needs assessment, treatment planning, and crisis interventions to critical individual psychotherapy. Each session plays a crucial role in addressing mental health needs and supporting overall well-being.
The center is funded by Medi-Cal billing and is self-sustaining and easily replicable across other communities and school districts.
In 2022, the board approved the new position of Director of Wellness to coordinate services across the district, and the 2023-24 LCAP has funded wellness centers for each of the 23 sites, so schools can have a supervised quiet place for students and staff to de-stress. A wellness paraprofessional, site-based counselors and wellness therapists are available in these rooms, funded by LCFF funds and included in the district’s Medi-Cal billing.
In 2023, the wellness discussions expanded to include community wellness and mental health needs, resulting in a formal community call to action and commitment to a countywide pledge called Say Something, Do Something. Signed by all elected and local county officials, this pledge recognizes that wellness in schools and the larger community must be a collective responsibility. Because data shows that adult behaviors at home often influence student behaviors at school, the disruption to the education environment can be addressed only when we respond to the well-being of all residents, many of whom are the very families we serve.
The collective commitment to improve well-being across our community with a first-of-its-kind community pledge has galvanized Yuba County leaders, including law enforcement, Yuba County Behavioral Health Services, Sutter Yuba Homeless Consortium, arts council, the Marysville mayor, county supervisors, our local newspaper editor, Yuba County Office of Education, business owners and state government officials, to come together to serve our community. Ten explicit goals have been identified to improve parent education, staff training and social-emotional support. The initiative is also being heralded as an innovative and exemplary social-wellness program, aimed at bringing varied community resources together to build a stronger Yuba County. As a result, the newly redesigned Community Wellness Committee, first formed in 2019, includes representatives from the various organizations listed above. This team is busy with plans for resources, workshops and training for families, staff and students both within and outside Yuba County. A wellness day is held annually at the start of the school year where the city and county leaders come together with the school district in a festive format to provide supplies and resources for the start of the school year. A poster called “How are the Children” is publicly posted in local storefronts and other areas to allow quick access to resources and workshops via a QR code on three fliers.
Community survey feedback coupled with our school board vision and commitment have helped drive the work forward at a faster rate. With wellness as a priority and a central goal in the district’s Strategic Plan, both the Community Wellness Hubs and the site-based wellness centers are designed to model and implement effective and sustainable mental health programs. The need and magnitude of impact for our community cannot be overstated, but now we have a plan to address this.
We are truly a community on the move, a community that has made the commitment to work together so we can build a better future for all we serve. As a ninth grade student said, “I like how it provides help if you are struggling. I feel it is not social, but more of a quiet hangout to chill and rewind. I love the wellness center and the comfort it radiates. I would love for the wellness center to be at LHS forever for anyone who is interested.”
Congressman LaMalfa and delegates from Region 2 at the 2023 Coast2Coast advocacy trip.
The Say Something, Do Something pledge.