Photo by K.C. Alfred
The San Diego Unified School District has been one of the few school districts in the country that provides MST (Multisystemic Therapy) to adolescents and families. Since early 2003, San Diego Unified has successfully served many families through their MST program. However, due to devastating budget cuts, that program is being eliminated this month despite opposition from the community.
Youth and Families Sometimes Face Hardship.
MST Makes Sure They Don't Have to Face It Alone.
When delving into the topic of how to keep school environments safe and supportive of our youth’s academic, social and emotional growth, we must explore all factors contributing to the challenges we are facing today. It is our hope that Multisystemic Therapy (MST) can play a major role in supporting adolescents throughout their successes and hardships of life. The issues facing them today are multi-faceted. Our young people are facing school violence, school and cyber-bullying, racism, homophobia, substance use, gang violence, housing and food insecurity, domestic abuse, physical health concerns, and mental health concerns. Just as there is not one challenge, there is not just one solution. The San Diego Unified School District MST team has felt this directly. Not only have they worked with children who have faced those challenges, but they have also worked with entire families who have struggled with poverty, lack of access to health insurance, fears of deportation, isolation, and community violence.
In recent months, the San Diego Unified School District has experienced a significant budget crisis—impacting its staff, students and community tremendously. Faced with inevitable budget cuts, the district did something simple, but revolutionary—it asked the people most directly impacted by these unfortunate cuts how best to handle the impending program eliminations. This survey was provided to families and staff, and although no one was joyful about any services being removed from the district, the impact of simply listening to the community’s opinion was astonishing. The community survey results revealed that most of its members—fifty-eight to seventy percent--were opposed to reducing counseling and non-mandated mental health services.
The San Diego Unified School District has been one of the few school districts in the country that provides MST (Multisystemic Therapy) to adolescents and families. Within San Diego Unified School District, children who have also been enrolled in San Diego County Probation Services were eligible for MST treatment. Since early 2003, San Diego Unified has successfully served many families through their MST program.
Despite overwhelming support of the district’s leadership, and the majority of the community not wanting to see mental health services cut, its MST Program was not spared during the recent, devastating budget cuts. However, it can be stated that the MST San Diego Unified School District team of clinicians has been a part of the community’s solution to multi-faceted hardships. During the team’s time of service, supported several families and students from all walks of life—those affected by violence, substance use, mental health concerns, gang affiliation, problematic behaviors, academic failure and truancy, and problems in the home.
As an MST Team Comes to a Close, a Call to Action Still Remains
Given today’s advocacy and activism across the country to keep our youth safe at school, now is the time to use the tools we have to let those who can help, do so. We need to focus on programs and solutions that give young people and families the respect of listening, validating and empathizing with their daily challenges. Over the past fifteen years, the San Diego Unified School District MST team did just that. They heard the needs of their community and they rose to the occasion. In all, we celebrate San Diego Unified District for asking the important questions to their community, we mourn with them the loss of the impacting programs eliminated due to a budget crisis, and we remain hopeful that the progress and positive changes made in lives by the San Diego Unified School District MST team will continue to flourish for the families served.
Thank you to the therapists who have served on these teams over the past several years, and thank you to the San Diego Unified School District executives who fought to keep these services available for the community. The call to action is still there. The issues facing our youth at school and at home still exist, but MST can be a part of the solution. If you are interested in furthering the community-based work in your corner of the world, consider Multisystemic Therapy as a solution, and act now by contacting MST Services below.