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Austin school board votes to keep open 16 campus mental health centers

Austin American-Statesman - 8/28/2018

Aug. 28--The Austin school board Monday night approved an agreement with Integral Care to keep 16 campus mental health centers open this school year.

The campus centers were in jeopardy of closure after the school district in June approved a $7.1 million student health services plan with Seton Healthcare Family that discontinued funding for 16 of 40 campus-based mental health centers with an on-site therapist. The plan also left some campuses without nurses.

District officials pointed to a tight budget, which calls for pulling $29 million from reserves to cover expenses. The district is on pace to deplete those reserves in three years.

But on Monday night, administrators presented a plan to the board for the district to form an agreement with Integral Care to continue the mental health services without interruption. The district will put in $400,000 for the services and Integral Care will cover $300,000 in services. The district is still seeking other funding sources to cover the remaining $1 million for continued coverage but wanted to show its commitment to the program.

The agreement would continue care at the following campuses: Austin, Eastside Memorial, International, Lanier, LBJ, LASA, McCallum, Reagan and Travis high schools; Bedicheck, Burnet, Dobie, Fulmore and Martin middle schools; and Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy and Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy.

"Mental health services in Austin ISD is an essential part of educating the whole child," said Tracy Spinner, district director of health services. "We are thankful for dedicated partners like Integral Care who have stepped up to continue services for our students at 16 campus mental health centers. While we are one step closer to supporting our students, the need for additional funds is still present and we are continuing to meet with potential partners to fully fund these services."

Advocates for keeping the mental health centers open on the 16 campuses said the service allows students and their family members to receive services immediately and reduces time away from class.

"AISD has been one of the leaders in school mental health," said Trustee Cindy Anderson. "It's critical in supporting our families. There's a wide variety of issues our students and families have to face."


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