The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) is giving $1.3 million to the Center For Resilience, a New Orleans non-profit that works with students with serious mental health challenges. New Orleans’ youth have rates of trauma and depression much higher than the national average.
The center has operated as the "Therapeutic Day Program," a department of the Recovery School District since 2015. But the partnership with OPSB will allow the center to stay open now that all charter schools have returned to the parish school board. OPSB director of city-wide education initiatives Kelli Jordan says New Orleans' schools need access to a program like the Center For Resilience.
"A handful of students have significant mental health needs that are sometimes beyond what our schools are able to address," Jordan said.
Center For Resilience founder Elizabeth Marcell Williams says the money from OPSB will help schools offset the cost of sending students there for services - which can cost up to $100,000 per child.
"Schools just don’t have the full economy of scale to support the cost of students being in a program like ours," Marcell Williams said. She says that's especially true in the city's charter school landscape, where schools are working with relatively small budgets.
The center provides daily counselling, medical and psychiatric care to its students, in addition to instruction in core subjects like math and reading. For each student, the ultimate goal is to become healthy enough to return to a traditional school setting.
The center serves students in grades K-8, and can only accommodate about 30 students at a time. That’s why OPSB and Marcell Williams are hoping to expand the program over the next few years. Marcell Williams says there are plans to add grades 9-12 in the fall of 2019, to create a group home for young adults in 2020, open a preK-8 charter school in 2021, and an early learning center in 2023.
"Our vision is that we build out a true continuum of mental health care for Southeast Louisiana and the city of New Orleans," she said.
If you're interested in learning more about trauma and New Orleans schools, check out our award-winning series: Kids, Trauma and New Orleans Schools.