Blue Shield of California on Monday announced Blue Sky, a multi-year effort in collaboration with the California Department of Education and nonprofit organizations such as Wellness Together, National Alliance on Mental Illness and DoSomething.org. The goal of the initiative is to enhance awareness, advocacy and access to mental health resources for California’s middle- and high school students. Blue Sky will target schools in San Diego and Oakland.
Both the San Francisco Chronicle and San Diego Union-Tribune covered the announcement of Blue Sky.
The Chronicle wrote:
It is unusual for insurance companies to directly pay for therapists or counselors in schools, even though they often cover mental health services in doctors’ offices.
“We liked the idea of starting out being close to home and trying to influence the community so many of us are spending our professional lives in or near,” said Blue Shield of California CEO Paul Markovich. “There is a lot more adversity children are facing. The ability to have resilience to deal with that adversity is crucial to their long-term health and happiness.”
The program, which Blue Shield is calling Blue Sky, will also help train 6,000 teachers and staff at schools across the state over the next 18 months to recognize signs of trauma. Some funding will also help expand student-led groups affiliated with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which promotes greater awareness of mental illness, and DoSomething, which helps organize campaigns around social causes.
The Union-Tribune wrote:
Locally, the Sweetwater and Oceanside districts and Juvenile Court & Community Schools are participating in the pilot program. Therapists were assigned to schools in September and are already meeting with students daily. Plans are in place to teach more than 6,000 teachers “mental first aid” techniques to help spot students who would benefit from additional counseling.
“The idea here is to impact both the students who are getting the services as well as their classmates,” said Dr. Tanya Dansky, chief medical officer of Blue Shield’s California Promise Health Plan.
It’s clear that the need is significant. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that children ages 6 to 17 are being diagnosed with conditions such as anxiety and depression in greater and greater numbers. In 2003, 5.4 percent of kids in this age range had been diagnosed with either condition, and that number was up to 8.4 percent by 2012, the most recent year for which data was available.
Read the full San Francisco Chronicle story here.
Read the full San Diego Union-Tribune story here.