That once controversial “reimbursement” payment (block grant) to the Family Service Agency for the BUSD’s drop-in mental health clinics is back to the council tonight for renewal.
Its proponents talk a lot about the “effectiveness” of this school program, but nothing has been included in the agenda packet that establishes this. There’s just cheerleading.
The School Based Counseling Program has been in operation since 2002 and provides a variety of counseling services to elementary, middle and high school students throughout the Burbank Unified School District (BUSD), including individual, family and group counseling. Students may be referred for counseling by teachers, counselors, administrative staff and/or through self-referral. For the 2017-2018 school year, FSA has serviced over 1,100 students to date. FSA generally services between 2,000 and 2,500 students per school year.
FSA also opened mental health and wellness centers at both Burbank High School (2016) and Burroughs High School (2017). These mental health and wellness centers serve as a way for high school age students to self-refer themselves for immediate support and guidance. The Wellness Centers have been extremely successful at both high schools. Since the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, the wellness centers have averaged about 14 visits per day, with over 640 students being served between the two schools.
This veers dangerously close to snowflake country, because how many of these student concerns are actually treatable, let alone critical or legitimate?
We have no way of knowing for sure, because there is no independent consideration of the program’s general effectiveness. Just that it’s apparently popular.
As required by the existing reimbursement agreement, FSA provides the City with an annual report at the end of each school year that includes financial information as well as qualitative and quantitative data assessing the impact of their program on students and families. The data provided on a yearly basis strongly suggests that FSA is providing a valuable and necessary service to the youth of Burbank. The School Based Counseling Program is well established within the community and the success of the program depends highly on FSA’s fundraising efforts as well as monetary contributions from the City and BUSD.
What happens is that the students, parents, or teachers fill out little forms at the beginning of the visits to document “the severity of the referring issue.” They then compete a “satisfaction” survey at the end.
Although it’s nice to know if someone’s happy with a service being provided to them, it tells us little about whether that service is necessary to begin with. There’s more than a bit of question-begging going on with such an evaluation. The people who think they need it are — surprise surprise — going to think they need it (especially if they’re getting their asses kissed by all the sudden attention).
But do they really need it — enough for going here and not somewhere else more professional, with a school referral from counselors who already exist independent of FSA — and, does it work?
Where is this annual assessment report anyway? You’d think it would be important for the council to consider, and yet it’s not included with their agenda package. Why not? All we can find are the contractual agreements.
We suspect — as we often do around here about these vague or fancy program things — that it comes off as more than a little mickey mouse.
You know what other question is being begged? Why is the BUSD not paying for the whole thing?