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Take it from a CPS student: Chicago schools should spend more on mental health care

I have watched friends and classmates struggle with worsening mental health.

Protestors chant asking Mayor Lori Lightfoot to consider and improve policies for Chicago Public Schools during a press conference by CPS parents and Raise for Hand for Illinois Public Education outside of City Hall in February 2021.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

As Chicago Public Schools officials decide how to spend $1.8 billion in federal assistance from the American Rescue Plan Act, it’s important they listen to their students and considers their needs.

As a student at a CPS school, I believe the district should use this money to increase the mental health services for students. This would mean adding more counselors, school psychologists and social workers.

At the moment, the social and emotional needs of students are not being met because of a high student-to-counselor ratio. The ratio needs to be lower. Among the benefits would be a more productive learning environment and a safer environment.

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There are other ways CPS could spend this money, such as on housing vouchers and to hire additional nurses; but some of the funding really should go toward improving mental health resources. I have watched friends and classmates struggle to care about school because of their worsening mental health.

Students should have someone to talk to. CPS should make mental health a priority.

Maia Downes, Old Irving Park

Health can’t wait, go see a doctor

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inequities throughout our economic and healthcare systems that disproportionately impact people of color — inequities that have been apparent to many of us in Black and Brown communities for generations.

Data shows us that counties with a predominantly Black population are more heavily impacted by COVID-19 — in rates of diagnosis, more serious illness and even death. We’re also learning that Black and Brown Americans have been delaying necessary healthcare at higher rates so as to avoid COVID exposure, meaning the indirect effects of the pandemic could be even more serious.

The Illinois House Legislative Black Caucus, of which I am the chair, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker have passed historic reforms around healthcare equity and access that will directly improve the lives of Illinoisans, especially those hit hardest by the pandemic. But these reforms mean nothing if people aren’t aware of them and don’t use them.

With COVID cases generally trending downward and vaccination rates increasing, it is critical that those of us in these communities no longer defer our healthcare needs. It is safer now — more than ever — to visit a doctor, clinic or hospital so that underlying conditions like heart disease and diabetes are detected and properly treated. Illinois has resources to ensure access is available to those who need it most.

If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that our health can’t wait. I implore all Illinoisans to go see their doctor.

Illinois State Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago