Minetre Martin’s Testimony on Bill 25-55

July 12, 2023

Minetre Martin
Organizing Manager
Education Reform Now DC

DC Council, Committee of the Whole
Public Hearing:
Bill 25-55, “Pathways to Behavioral Health Degrees Act of 2023”

Chairperson Phil Mendelson and Committee of the Whole Members,

I am Minetre Martin, a Ward 4 resident, Organizing Manager for Education Reform Now DC (ERN DC), and a former classroom teacher. I hold a bachelor of science degree in psychology, but it is not my academic credentials that bring me here today. It’s the faces of the countless students I’ve seen over the years, their dreams and hopes for a better future. Their future, and the future of this city’s overall health, is what Bill 25-55 represents.

Earlier this year, I testified¹ in support of this bill and asked for there to be a hearing. Thank you for funding this legislation in the Fiscal Year 2024 Local Budget Act of 2023 and holding a hearing. In my previous testimony, I shared the alarming statistics pertaining to our youth’s mental health, the leading cause of death among them being suicide.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), in Washington, DC, suicide is among the leading causes of death for youth ages 10-24,² predominantly affecting Black youth.³

  1. To put more detailed data into perspective, Let’s take a moment to imagine a classroom of 25 high school students in Washington, D.C. Among these students,
    About 13-14 of them, which is more than half of the classroom, would have experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness or seriously considered attempting suicide, according to a recent survey.4
  2. Approximately two students in this classroom would have witnessed or experienced violence, reflecting the 7.4% rate in DC, which is nearly double the national average of 3.8%.5
  3. If the students come from low-income households, the number of those who have witnessed or experienced violence would increase to around 3-4 students, reflecting the 14% rate, more than twice the national average of 6.8%.6
  4. Among LGBTQ+ students they would have twice the likelihood of reported suicidal thoughts, compared to their peers, showing that LGBTQ+ youth are at a significantly higher risk.7

Alarmingly, one of those students could be your child, your child’s friend, your neighbor, or in my case, a former student.

It is no secret that research has shown that our students struggle with mental health issues or are experiencing numerous adverse experiences within their community. 8 However, this is not just about numbers; it’s about lives and futures that we can nurture or neglect. This is where this bill could have an impact. But for this program to serve its purpose, it must be dynamic, cutting-edge, and grounded in the realities of the District’s unique demographics and challenges. In light of DC’s wealth of resources, we propose the following recommendations:

Recommendations:

  • Create alliances with renowned institutions and research centers here in DC, such as the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychological Association, and leading local hospitals, clinics, and organizations. These partnerships would facilitate research opportunities, hands-on experience, guest lectures, and real-world exposure for students. This would increase the program’s marketability and strengthen its commitment to serving the community.
  • Leverage DC’s vibrant nonprofit and philanthropic sector. We have organizations and foundations committed to supporting education and mental health, such as the Strengthening Families Through Behavioral Health Coalition. Engaging them in sponsorship, scholarship, or internship programs would be a mutually beneficial partnership.
  • Adopt a unique DC-centered curriculum that addresses our diverse communities’ specific behavioral health needs. This could be done through collaborations with local community health centers, schools, and the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH). Moreover, the use of advanced tech-based teaching tools and methodologies would ensure a comprehensive and effective education for our students.
  • Market this program to LEAs so counselors are aware and can work to intentionally build out career pathways in these fields.
  • Overcome any barriers to data sharing by providing information to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, Department of Employment Services, LEAs, and other relevant agencies on the number of individuals taking advantage of this career opportunity and their outcomes.

We have the opportunity to make history here, not just for the University of the District of Columbia but for our children, our community, and our future. Thank you for your time and consideration. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

[1]https://edreformnow.org/2023/03/30/ern-dc-urges-for-improved-behavioral-health-resources-in-dc-schools/
[2]American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (2021). District of Columbia: Suicide and mental health fact sheet.
[3]American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2022). AACAP Policy Statement: Increased suicide among Black youth in the United States.
[4]Office of the State Superintendent of Education. (2019). 2019 District of Columbia Youth Risk Behavior Survey: High School
and Middle School Reports. Retrieved from https://osse.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/osse/publication/attachments/2019%20DC%20YRBS%20Report.pdf
[5]Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. 2020-2021 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) data query. Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). Retrieved January 8, 2023, from https://www.childhealthdata.org/browse/survey/results?q=9535&r=10
[6] Ibid
[7] Suicide risk among LGBTQIA students in Washington D.C.: Office of the State Superintendent of Education. (2019). LGBTQ Student Report. Retrieved from https://osse.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/osse/page_content/attachments/LGBTQ%20Student%20Report%20FINAL.pdf
[8]https://www.dcpolicycenter.org/publications/mental-health-supports/

 

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