DOWNINGTOWN, PA — On February 10, the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) hosted the fourth session of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Chester County Consortium for Mental Health and Optimal Development, featuring guest speakers State Representative Christina Sappey and UPenn Professor of Urban Education and Africana Studies Dr. Howard Stevenson. The consortium is facilitated by the CCIU in partnership with the UPenn Graduate School of Education and is a yearlong effort to implement mental health planning in Chester County school districts.
The goal of implementing long-term mental health resources in schools is vital, and educators recognize the importance of seeking assistance from community partners. Consortium leaders invited Representative Sappey to attend the session and discuss the importance of advocating for students and building relationships with local legislators.
“It was a pleasure to join the Chester County Consortium for Mental Health and Optimal Development. I am so impressed with this partnership between our area educators and the University of Pennsylvania,” said Sappey. “It speaks to the fact that collaboration is key in bringing critical services to our students and families.”
Efforts in Harrisburg also reflect the growing need for mental health supports across the commonwealth. Representative Sappey shared the initiatives legislators are working on to support the students in their districts and beyond. “Through the Chester County Youth Mental Health Coalition, the county, the CCIU, educators, providers, parents and the full Chester County house and senate legislative delegation are working together to increase the provider workforce, embed counseling in schools, deepen community supports for families dealing with youth mental health issues and in-patient treatment needs.”
The consortium leaders also continue to seek expertise from those in education such as Dr. Howard Stevenson, the Constance Clayton professor of urban education, professor of Africana studies in the Human Development & Quantitative Methods Division of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania who was the keynote speaker for the session. Dr. Stevenson used this opportunity to discuss his racial socialization-based, culturally responsive, therapeutic interventions and research, as well as share his own life experiences.
Racial stress can lead to trauma and ultimately shape children from a young age. Dr. Stevenson emphasized the importance of addressing these issues in children as soon as they arise, noting that avoidance causes future challenges in adulthood. Thanking the educators in attendance, Dr. Stevenson stated, “All of you are trying to prevent the ominous clouds of inferiority from beginning to form in our children’s mental skies, and that is noble work.”
The UPenn Chester County Consortium for Mental Health and Optimal Development has over 150 monthly participants from Chester County schools and is led by Andy Danilchick, director of the UPenn Project for Mental Health & Optimal Development and Dr. Siobhan Leavy, CCIU director of student services.
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