At the Oklahoma City Public School System working board meeting Sept. 24, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health Commissioner Terri White introduced a “historic” collaboration. She explained that the OKCPS has committed to Embrace OKC, a holistic process to study and systematically address the district’s mental health challenges. Other districts have joined with the Department of Mental Health and other service providers in the past, but no other leader has tackled these health problems in such a comprehensive manner as OKCPS Superintendent Sean McDaniel.
Embrace OKC is a five-step campaign to transform the future of OKCPS’s children. White praised United Way President Debby Hampton, who helped lead the three-hour meetings during the first two phases: assessment and planning. They are now moving into the next three phases: capacity-building, implementation and measuring the outcomes.
Embrace OKC will be a collaborative, evidence-based effort to address:
- individual risk factors,
- peer influences,
- family factors,
- schools’ contributions
- and community inputs.
This mental health partnership grew out of the Compact, a collective effort involving the OKCPS, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, the United Way of Central Oklahoma, the Foundation for the Oklahoma City Public Schools, and the City of Oklahoma City. (I would add that former city councilman Pete White deserves great praise for his efforts to bring the partners together.)
The Compact is embracing a challenge that requires more than quick and cheap shortcuts. It shows promise because the partners are pledging that, in terms of staffing and resources, “we stand with the district.”
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