Mercer Council News
Call to Action Save School Based Youth Service Program From Governor's Budget Cut.
Action Requested: Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer CUTS ALL Funding to School Based Youth Services Program, (Our ASYSST Program) eliminating mental health services for students.
Several weeks ago I began working on a glowing report to share about the incredible Virtual Leadership Academy the ASYSST School Based youth Services Program successfully implemented the last week in July through the first two weeks in August. We impacted a wide range of high school students between the ages of 14-18 by honing in on preparatory leadership skills we felt would be useful as they begin a new school year.
Each day the students learned principles in subjects pertaining to personal and professional character development. During these lectures, break out groups, and interactive activities, our students learned to identify leadership potential in themselves and in others.
Interestingly, the concept was originally designed for incoming freshman, but the majority of the students who signed up were upperclassman. The program went so well that at the end of the second week the students registered requested that we extend it through another week. During our bonus week our staff discussed college preparation and job readiness, nutrition, exercise and mental health fitness. We even had a former Willingboro HS School-Based Youth Services Program student, Dr. Ashley Stewart, (an assistant professor at Temple who specializes in advocacy skills, practice skills and anti-oppression strategies) come and discuss the importance in having tough conversations on race. Dr. Stewart commented that she was “impressed by the maturity she saw group of students in the program”.
Sadly, just a week after culminating this successful endeavor, we received word that effective September 30, 2020, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Division of Family and Community Partnerships, will be cutting all funding to approximately 91 School Based Youth Services Programs (SBYSP). School Based Youth Services Programs can be found in all 21 Counties from inner cities to rural areas and are estimated to provide services to over 30,000 students in grades 7-12. All of their services and programming are free of charge.
Without State funding SBYSP will NO LONGER EXIST.
The Department of Children and Families (DCF), according to their website, is devoted exclusively to serving and supporting at-risk children and families. The ASYSST School Based Youth Services Program operates under the auspices of the DCF’s Division of Family and Community Partnerships (FCP), Office of School-Linked Services (OSLS). Programs similar to ASYSST are located in host schools and coordinates with existing resources in the community. All youth are eligible to participate and services are provided before, during and after school. SBYSP services include: mental health counseling; employment counseling; substance abuse education/prevention; preventive health awareness including pregnancy prevention; primary medical linkages; learning support; healthy youth development; recreation; and information/referral. School Based Youth Services Programs are designed to help young people navigate their adolescent years, complete their education, obtain skills leading to employment or continuing education and graduate healthy and drug free.
Due to the COVID Crisis the mental health and well being of all New Jerseyans has been compromised. Students, especially at-risk youth, are struggling with mental health issues at alarming rates. We feel that cutting School Based Youth Services Programs will have devastating consequences to all students who have access to them.
SBYSP are data driven and utilize best practices in comprehensive counseling services, telehealth, crisis intervention services, helping to close the digital divide, prevention programming, advocacy, academic support, employment services, family engagement, basic need fulfillment, free public education/forums and collaboration with community partners. All programs are free.
They are committed to supporting the mental health, well-being, and educational success of all students. They build public and private partnerships to ensure quality services that are effective, culturally appropriate and responsive to the diverse, changing needs of students and their communities.
We are urging everyone to please help us by contacting your State Representative and Governor Murphy to put pressure on Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer to reinstate funding for the ASYSST at Ewing High School , and all other School Based Youth Services Programs.
Governor Phil Murphy
Contact form: https://nj.gov/governor/contact/
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