" We're not only educating the child in reading and writing, but we have to be concerned with their emotional intelligence and their success," said Larry Spini, principal for Shasta Elementary School. That's a concern Shasta Elementary School Officials have been addressing for years. And with programs like Healthy Play, which addresses issues in bullying, anger management, and violence prevention, they've been succeeding. But now budget cuts are threatening those services. " At the state level, it's proposed to have this funding eliminated and that would be pretty devastating for Chico Unified," said elementary student support coordinator Scott Lindstrom.
Budget cuts proposed by Governor Jerry Brown have put Healthy Play, and dozens of other services like it in jeopardy. Any service that is funded by the Early Mental Health Initiative is at risk of vanishing. The initiative is granted 15-million dollars a year statewide. " It has not been an educated proposal, it's coming from a place of, this looks like a 15-million dollar statewide program that can be just thrown into the mix," said Lindstrom.
In chico, each year more than 700 children benefit from individual and group sessions in the healthy play program. Statewide, more than 400 schools provide similar services to more than 25-thousand students. Students who officials say will pay the price if these programs are gone. " Lost and lots of kids are gonna be impacted if this is gone and a number of jobs," said Lindstrom.
The Early Mental Health Initiative is currently being reviewed by the legislature. It's next step is to go before the senate, and the governor before a decision is made. Officials say the initiative should make it before the senate by April. ###