The Downey Unified School District is set to reopen on August 11 with the addition of student Wellness Centers being central to the start of the new school year. Developed to better facilitate access to mental health and wellness services for students, the Wellness Centers will be set up across the district’s seven campuses, servicing middle and high school students, with each center providing a one-stop-shop for school mental health needs, as reported by the Downey Patriot.
“As a district, Downey Unified recognizes the importance of the whole child and wants to support our students’ educational abilities as well as their social emotional wellbeing—especially following such a challenging year,” said Superintendent Dr. John Garcia.
“These new Wellness Centers will provide students with increased access to expert emotional wellness staff and to school and community-based resources, allowing us to support more students than ever before during this critical transition back to full in-person learning.”
A Simple Retrofit for Mental Health Services
Rather than construct new buildings, the Wellness Centers will take advantage of existing spaces on campus, with the transformation having already occurred over the summer, each space receiving a check-in desk, up to five private offices for counseling sessions, a conference table and a modular waiting area. Each school has plans on personalizing the interior décor according to the culture and spirit of the students.
It was important for the district that the Wellness Centers be in easily accessible locations such that, as the centers grow and are integrated more into campus life, they can better facilitate group meetings, encourage mental health clubs and host parent and peer advocacy groups on the campuses.
“The way we face various tragedies, traumas and even celebrations has changed. In our technology-driven, social media centered world, our youth face challenges like never before and our goal is to have a place where students and families can find resources and support. We are proud that we will now have our Wellness Centers as well as our Centers’ staff and service providers to centralize our support systems,” shared Dr. Robert Jagielski, Senior Director of Student Safety, Wellness and Engagement.
Bolstering the Already Robust System
With the addition of three full-time therapists at Downey and Warren high schools and two at Columbus High and each of Downey Unified’s four middle schools, each secondary school will be more than doubling the availability of services and staff to students.
On opening day, students will be able to walk in and schedule appointments with center staff while trained counselors and teachers will work to identify students they feel may benefit from center resources. Those identified in this way will then be granted access to the center during the school day to attend appointments with Licensed Clinical Therapists or community-based resources.
Additionally, Wellness Center staff will work with academic counselors to draft effective schedules and programs to best fit individual students’ needs both academically and mentally while carrying out services.