OKC VeloCity | Chamber partners with OKCPS, others, for new mental health initiative

Chamber partners with OKCPS, others, for new mental health initiative

By David McCollum / Inside OKC / July 31, 2019

Statistics don’t lie.

Oklahoma ranks highest in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences and 5,000 homeless students in Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS).

In response to concerns about the mental health of students in OKCPS, more than 7,000 students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 were recently given the Oklahoma Prevention Needs Assessment. The survey is administered every other year and helps identify substance use and mental health patterns.

Results of the survey identified three priority areas for planning and coordination of prevention and intervention services; substance use, high-risk behaviors; and psychological distress.

The OKC Public Schools Compact, a collective impact model whose partners are the Oklahoma City Public Schools, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, the United Way of Central Oklahoma and the City of Oklahoma City, works to support improvements identified by the Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Modeled after ReadOKC, Embrace OKC is the Compact’s newest collaborative initiative with a focus on mental health.

"We can't expect our students to perform to their highest potential when they are dealing with ongoing situational and emotional challenges,” said Teresa Rose Crook, vice-chair for Education and Workforce Development, Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce and chair of the OKC Compact. “Through the OKC Compact's Embrace OKC initiative, the business community is working arm-in-arm with educators and mental health professionals to create innovative, evidence-based solutions. By offering support and resources to our district, Embrace OKC is creating an environment where students can thrive academically and emotionally." 

“I hope that through this work every one of our 45,000 students and their families feel the arms of Oklahoma City being wrapped around them,” said Dr. Sean McDaniel, Superintendent of Schools, OKCPS. “Our top priority must be to provide our students with the supports they need to be successful and achieve our vision of every student graduating ready to fulfill their unique purpose in a healthy, vibrant community. And, I am so proud that of all the issues our Board of Education could have selected to work on alongside The Compact partners, they identified mental health as an obstacle facing many of our students and called on them to help us find a solution. I’ve said many times that until we work to meet our students’ most basic, foundational needs - food, warmth, emotional and physical safety - many of our students will continue to struggle to find academic success.” 

“We have heard the calls for help from school administrators and teachers and the message is loud and clear,” said Percy Kirk, chair, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “They need more mental health support, more counselors and more ways to support the mental health needs of students before it is too late. If we don’t act now, we’re failing our students and we’re failing our community. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber realizes our children are at risk and we are determined to be part of the solution through our partnership with the Oklahoma City Compact and Embrace OKC.”

To learn more about Embrace OKC visit https://www.okcps.org/Page/3473.

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