Partnering With PUSD to Help Students During COVID

Posted by on Mar 22, 2021 in Featured Slider, News | 0 comments

Hathaway-Sycamores’ longstanding relationship with PUSD has been helping students in the community for over two decades.

After a year of social distancing and remote learning, the mental health issues that children and teenagers are experiencing are soaring. Not only do students miss their friends and struggle with virtual learning, but many also have experienced deaths and job losses in their families, loss of housing (or fear of eviction) and food insecurity. The stress, depression, and anxiety our youth are suffering is unprecedented and can lead to serious consequences. In fact, according to the CDC, attempted suicide and suicide are on the rise and are currently the second leading cause of death for teens.

Hathaway-Sycamores Shefali D’Sa and Shannon San Pedro

Hathaway-Sycamores Assistant Vice President of School-Based Services Shefali D’Sa and School-Based Services Director Shannon San Pedro.

During this challenging time Pasadena Unified School District’s partnership with Hathaway-Sycamores is crucial. Hathaway-Sycamores School-Based Services provides behavioral health services on four of the school campuses in Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD), including Pasadena High School and three of the elementary schools in the district.

From helping students who are experiencing anxiety and depression to those who have suffered a crisis in their lives – like the death of a parent – Hathaway-Sycamores’ clinical staff expertly provide individual, group and family therapy. They also perform behavioral rehabilitation and assessment services to help students manage stress in the effort to achieve greater academic success. During the pandemic, the connection that students experience with their therapist, and the opportunity to talk to someone outside the family, is critical.

The partnership with PUSD began in 1997 with the goal of providing greater access to behavioral health care to students in need. Hathaway-Sycamores President and CEO Debra Manners firmly believes in the equity the program provides. “Having this program in the schools is so important because it makes the services easily accessible to students who might not otherwise get the support they need. Often, we can provide early intervention before a more serious problem develops,” shares Ms. Manners.

At the core of this long-term relationship between Hathaway-Sycamores and the Pasadena Unified School District is trust. The trust has developed over time and is facilitated by the fact that in normal circumstances – pre-COVID – Hathaway-Sycamores’ clinicians and other staff work 40 hours a week on the campus. School administrators, teachers, and other school personnel know the agency’s team members in the school – they are familiar faces and have personal relationships with the school community. According to School-Based Services Director Shannon San Pedro, “We go to Back-to-School Nights, PTA meetings and the Holiday Programs – we show up. And that makes the community trust us more. When the school recommends treatment and the providers are on campus it feels more collaborative, and we have more buy in from everyone involved.”

During this difficult time of remote learning Hathaway-Sycamores’ clinicians and community wellness specialists are providing services via telehealth. However, COVID has increased the intensity and frequency of issues that our students are facing, and the Hathaway-Sycamores team has also been providing in person support when critical. The team has supported students and families in other ways too – including getting tablets and hotspots to students in need and finding the funds to pay the electric bill for a family whose power was turned off.

The agency is also expanding work with the greater PUSD community to meet new needs that have arisen during this past year. Last summer after a child from Madison Elementary School was tragically killed in a shooting, Hathaway-Sycamores staff were there to provide support and help the healing process begin for the school’s staff and families. The school-based team met with school personnel to help them understand the various stages and feelings of collective grief that school staff members, students, and families all might experience. The team also assisted school staff in determining the best way to discuss this heartbreaking event with other families in the school.

While the district works with other providers, the relationship with Hathaway-Sycamores remains unique. Assistant Superintendent of School Support Services Dr. Eric Sahakian credits Hathaway-Sycamores’ flexibility as a key factor in the success of the relationship, “We know if we put Hathaway-Sycamores in one of our schools, they are going to make it work. They have the flexibility, creativity and expertise to adjust to the specific needs of the students on that school campus.” Dr. Sahakian added, “This ultimately results in healthier students and families.”

The district’s belief in Hathaway-Sycamores’ ability to get the job done has recently led to a new collaboration involving two grants. The first grant is the Proposition 47 Grant, aimed at intervening with juvenile offenders early to break the cycle and change the script from “school to prison” to “school to college.” The second grant is Project Prevent, a U.S. Department of Education funded grant to provide school-based social and emotional supports for 12-18-year-old students who have experienced trauma regardless of income level and insurance.

The relationship has been beneficial both to district and to agency. Hathaway-Sycamores Assistant Vice President of School-Based Services Shefali D’Sa sums it up, “Our longstanding partnership with PUSD has branched out in so many directions and has led to the development of an amazing program in our agency that has expanded to assist students not only in Pasadena, but all over Los Angeles County. We are thankful for PUSD’s partnership, trust and vision.”

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