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BUSD holds mental health assessment update

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The assessment includes responses from nearly 200 people and informs recommendations for the district to make resources more available and equitable at all schools.


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SEPTEMBER 17, 2023

Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, held a meeting Thursday to review a mental health assessment conducted as a step in a four year mental health improvement plan.

The district received a grant, which is overseen by the Medical Health Operational Area Coordinator, or MHOAC, for the plan last fall. This assessment was conducted in collaboration with the Berkeley Mental Health Division and Resource Development Associates, or RDA, consulting.

The grant provides $2,500,000 to the district, which has thus far been spent on salaries for mental health staff, RDA assessment and youth mental health first aid training, according to BUSD Director of student services Phillip Shelley. In year two of the plan’s implementation, money will be spent on intern stipends, mental health providers for district elementary schools and peer education at Berkeley Technical Academy, among other costs.

“We deeply hold the importance of the mental health and wellness of our students,” Associate Superintendent Jill Hoogendyk said in the meeting. “That has become abundantly clear, especially coming out of COVID.”

RDA Senior Consultant Courtney Davis gave a presentation on the assessment, which she said began in April, with data gathered in May. RDA sorted through the data and compiled themes in June and July, then began implementing their findings in August.

Nearly 200 people participated in the assessment, including students, staff and district families. Davis said many people in the community are eager to help with the project, but some families and staff are unaware of services currently available to students, and some students shared negative experiences with school-based support. Davis added that the district must make resources more equitable and available at all schools.

Due to these concerns, Davis said that RDA recommends the district come up with a clear definition of mental health for students, centralize a contracting process with community-based organizations and implement mental health professional development training for all staff members.

RDA also encouraged the district to assess trends of school avoidance, including absences and student anxiety, addressing student-driven needs, and building bridges and relationships with families. As part of these goals, the district created a Mental Health Student Services Act, or MHSSA, website, and will be holding a mental health first aid training for parents.

In a presentation from Berkeley High School, or BHS, Vice Principal of School Climate & Student Wellness Doreen Bracamontes addressed the implementation of BHS’s wellness center, which will be created in partnership with the city of Berkeley and the BHS health center.

“We believe that students’ wellness is nurtured when the community sees who they are, meets them where they are, and works alongside them to imagine and achieve informed, culturally responsible, personal and occupational possibilities for their future,” Bracamontes said in the meeting, defining student wellness.

The presentation leaders then opened up the meeting to public comment, addressing questions from community members. Shelley said the district is required to report their grant progress to the MHOAC as they collect data and continue their mental health improvement initiatives.

Contact Ella Carter-Klauschie at 


SEPTEMBER 17, 2023