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Superintendent Sayavedra, Congresswoman Escobar tout benefits of district partnership with Emergence Health Network

(EL PASO HIGH SCHOOL – June 2, 2023) – Superintendent Diana Sayavedra and representatives from Emergence Health Network met with U.S. Congresswoman Veronica Escobar on Friday at El Paso High School to highlight a collaboration for school-based mental health services.

El Paso ISD and Emergence Health Network entered into an agreement in 2020 to provide a qualified mental health professional on-site at five campuses for case management, skills training, medication management and counseling.

“We are proud of our partnership with EPISD and applaud the commitment the district has taken in not only caring about their students’ physical and academic well-being, but their mental health as well. Providing this type of awareness and care in the early years is vital,” said Kristi Daugherty, Emergence Health Network chief executive officer.

Emergence mental health professionals are positioned at Canyon Hills Middle School along with El Paso, Austin, Franklin and Bowie high schools and can provide students with on-campus for outpatient appointments. Nearly 300 students have enrolled in the program.

“El Paso ISD is the first school district in the county that has invested in on-site mental health supports for our students and our families,” Sayavedra said. “It aligns nicely with our Strategic Blueprint which says we are going to service the whole child and that doesn’t always happen in the classroom. There are a number of different supports we have to build so our students have access whenever they are in need or whenever they are in crisis.”

Sayavedra stressed El Paso ISD’s commitment to whole child development to include both physical and mental wellness and social emotional support.

“We can’t do it without leveraging our community assets and that’s what we’re doing with our partnership with Emergence,” she said.

Congresswoman Escobar was encouraged by the collaboration between El Paso ISD and Emergence to deliver on-site mental health support for students.

“We are facing a historic mental health crisis in this country and it’s hitting our kids significantly,” Escobar said. “Beyond COVID and what we went through as community on Aug. 3, (2019), what has gone untamed on social media, the fear and anxiety of continued gun violence, there is so much. It’s never been a tougher time to be a kid than it is today.”

Escobar also discussed funding issues and the fact that there aren’t enough mental health resources across the country.

“If we don’t get especially young people that help, their life can take a turn for the worse. That can be totally preventable,” Escobar said. “It really is a tragedy not providing enough resources. You all are doing incredible with the resource you have.”

Emergence staff works closely with school counselors to assess the need of each student referral. If a student is interested in receiving services, they can reach out to their school counselor to discuss the next steps. So far, therapists have noticed a reduction in symptoms of anxiety, depression and self-harming behavior. They also have seen students’ relationships and communication within families and friendships strengthen. Students are using coping skills that have been identified through their treatment goals to become more self-sufficient and self-regulating, and appear to have a more positive outlook and improved decision-making skills.  

“Emergence has been a blessing to El Paso High,” Principal Dr. Sandra Rocha said. “We have counselors, as you know, but they are academic counselors. They have some of the skills and training to deal with emotional crisis, but to have Emergence here has been a tremendous help to our students. They can get the help and support they need here and, in turn, it helps students be successful in the classroom.  We are grateful to be able to offer this resource to our students.”