LAUSD lacking mental health resources, tech help for students, study finds

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- For the past year and a half, COVID has been a key focus of the Los Angeles Unified School District, but the emphasis on physical health may have left a void in the schools when it comes to mental health.

A new study by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles finds three serious shortcomings in the school district, including a dearth of mental health resources.

"There's a lot that's gone on in the last couple years for young people to disrupt their education," said Norma Rodriguez, the director of education policy with United Way's L.A. chapter.

The non-profit has released the results of a new study called "Where Do We Go From Here?" that takes a look at surveys of nearly 800 LAUSD middle school and high school students.

Those students identified three areas where they feel the school district is lacking: technology assistance, tutoring options and mental health resources.

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After nearly a year of distance learning, the impact it has had on students' education is far-reaching with data showing that many children have fallen behind.



"Having to go from no school, to school, to online school, back and forth, the students are extremely stressed not only about their academic needs, but access to mental health," said Dr. Mitali Wadekar, a child and adult psychiatrist with Dignity Health Northridge Hospital.

She says the usual teen stressors are now multiplied by all the pandemic-related changes kids have been put through.

"Students are worried about their physical health, health and safety of their parents, either because their family is an essential worker, or loss of loved ones or loss of income," Wadekar told Eyewitness News.

L.A. Unified school board member Kelly Gonez says she wasn't surprised by the results of the study. She says the board has already been working toward boosting resources for tech, tutoring and mental health since receiving several billion dollars in pandemic aid from the state and federal government.

"We're deploying and hiring hundreds of psychiatric social workers and school counselors, and sending them to our schools, focusing on those communities that have been most impacted first," Gonez said.

Meantime, survey organizers say it's important for the school district to reach out to students to find the resources that are most needed.

"They're the ones that know most what they need, and have experienced the pandemic in ways that we couldn't know as adults," said Rodriguez.

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