Mental Health

Tempers flare after Grossmont Union High School District votes for new mental health service provider

Parents, teachers and students worry they won't get the same level of service from new company

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Frustration and disappointment were unleashed on the Grossmont Union High School Board after district leaders voted against continued collaboration with a mental health service provider over gender-affirming care for LGBTQ+ students.

“You just voted blindly," yelled a woman in the audience. “You didn't listen to each other. That was pathetic and disgraceful."

In a 3 to 2 vote, the district voted to replace its decades-long mental health and suicide prevention services contract with San Diego Youth Services (SDYS).

They decided instead to expand an existing contract with Wellness Together to include mental and therapeutic services.

The vote came after tearful stories from parents and students like Zoey Miller, who says therapists with SDYS saved students' lives. 

“She quite literally saved my life. I wouldn't be here without her help her assistance, her support," Miller said.

Since the start of school two weeks ago, the district hasn't had a mental health service provider for its students, though the superintendent said counselors were available.

“We need to look for alternatives that best reflect East County Values," said school board member Dr. Gary Woods during the July meeting.

That’s when the board voted abruptly to cancel its contract with SDYS over concerns about services provided to LGBTQ+ students involving gender-affirming care.

Dr. Woods and board member Jim Kelly refused to answer questions on their vote after Wednesday night’s meeting.

Board members Chris Fite and Elva Salinas tried to get the SDYS contract reinstated, but they were outvoted. The vote came after a school counselor shared how much SDYS programs have helped.

“I can’t overstate the importance of our SDYS therapists in helping me and keeping our most vulnerable students safe," said Santana High School counselor Connor Madden.

Miller and students who stand with her are worried about what board politics will mean for students in need of mental health help.

“Now we have to completely rebuild bonds and trust and relationships with new people we've never met and don't trust and have to re-explain our story," Miller said standing with a group of Santana High students by her side. “It  just really showed they didn't care about their students enough and weren't listening to the parents that were literally crying for help."

Superintendent Mary Beth Kastan said onboarding all specialists could take up to two months.

When asked for clarity, GUHSD spokesperson Collin McGlashen issued this statement:

“All of our Board members fully understand the importance of providing mental health services for our students. That’s why a special board meeting was scheduled tonight to expand the Wellness Together agreement and deliver mental health services at all of our comprehensive campuses. Wellness Together already has specialists on several of our campuses. While we don’t know for certain how long the onboarding process will take, that process will begin immediately. We fully expect Wellness Together to provide a comparable level of service.”

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