OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City Public Schools students are fighting an array of mental health issues and now the district is trying to fund ways to help.
“They just need the support when they are younger to be able to overcome those obstacles and be successful,” said Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs, Oklahoma City Public Schools board member.
In a classroom of 20 students, over 9 are in moderate or severe psychological distress. 12 are showing symptoms of moderate or severe depression.
“When you see a student in distress it is heartbreaking and one of the worst feelings in the world is being powerless to help them,” Coppernoll Jacobs said.
Of the more than 45,000 students in the district, about 1,000 of them have tried to commit suicide or made a plan to do so.
A new group effort is now trying to change this—partnering up with a handful of other local groups including OKCPS, the City of Oklahoma City, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, and United Way to create Embrace OKC.
The goal is to provide more counselors, mental health training, early emotional screening, resilience building, and even mental health treatment programs.
“The better job we do on the front end, of educating, of providing coping skills, getting them with adults and agencies who understand what they’re seeing and are able to help us help in, the better off we’re all going to be,” OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel said.
But the plan comes at a cost of $7 million for the first year. But OKCPS said with assistance from community partners for the first four years, they can then foot the bill after that.
“We believe it’s a priority. We need to take care of our kids at a higher rate. At a higher level. But taking care of kids means you do more than the academic,” McDaniel said.
Embrace OKC has already raised a portion of the cost. OKCPS said they’re confident the funds will be raised to push the plan forward.