TRENTON — Black and Hispanic students in New Jersey schools have less access to mental health staff than a dozen years earlier, while access has improved for white and Asian students, according to a new report who notes that the need is higher than ever in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Mark Weber – a teacher in Warren Township, a lecturer at Rutgers University and a special analyst for education policy at New Jersey Policy Perspective – called the results “very discouraging” given that this is happening in “midst an unprecedented mental health crisis”.
“Over the past decade and a half, there has been a sharp decline in access to mental health support staff for students of color, but now students of color need these staff more than ever,” Weber said.
“For social workers, we seem to have seen some stability for students of color,” he said. “It’s really in nurses and school counselors that we’ve seen the biggest declines.”
In a sense, access to mental health personnel has stabilized across all demographic groups.
In 2008, black and Hispanic students had greater access to mental health personnel – with 10.3 employees per 1,000 black students and 9 per 1,000 Hispanic students, compared to 7.4 per 1,000 white students.
By 2020, those numbers had risen to 8.5 employees per 1,000 black students, 8.4 per 1,000 Hispanic students, and 8.5 per 1,000 white students.
But Weber cautions that parity shouldn’t be the goal when minority students are more likely to live in poverty and, therefore, have greater mental health needs.
“It is very important that we review and ensure that staff who support student mental health are deployed in such a way that the students who need it the most are the ones who receive the most help,” Weber said. .
Weber said school districts have the option of using some of their $4 billion in federal pandemic recovery funds for mental health programs and staff, but that’s a one-time flow of funding which, while helpful, may not be the long-term solution to the problem.
Michael Symons is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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