Orange County Department of Education joined Los Alamitos Unified School District officials recently to cut the ribbon and officially open new WellSpace Centers aimed at promoting better mental health for students.
The officials symbolically cut the ribbon of the two new LAUSD WellSpace Centers, one at Oak Middle School and the other at McAuliffe Middle School.
There are now five WellSpace centers at middle and high school campuses in Orange County through a partnership involving OCDE and Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
The initiative kicked off in Los Alamitos during the last school year with the goal of improving mental health by creating calm and comfortable spaces for students to reset and learn about mindfulness strategies with support from school counselors.
“During this pandemic, when we see an increase in mental health needs and anxiety, we’re able to provide them support right in their school as part of their campus and really reduce that mental health stigma,” said Mayu Iwatani, OCDE’s manager of Mental Health and Wellness Care Coordination.
“So, this is the first school year they’ve been really able to use it, and the impact has just been amazing to see,” she said.
Dr. Andrew Pulver, Supt. of the Los Alamitos Unified School System, along with Board President, both of whom have been vocal proponents of greater mental health resources for students, also attended the openings.
“It’s a safe place where they [students] can step away from the hustle, bustle and stresses of being on a middle school campus with 1,200 other kids” said Ryan Weiss-Wright, Ed.D., principal of McAuliffe Middle School.
“They do read in there and when they are ready to talk, there’s someone to talk to,” he said.
Michael Weiss, M.D., Vice President of Population Health for Children’s Hospital of Orange County, said “[W]ith the rise of mental health, in our society, we have a great opportunity to make an impact at a young age. I know that adolescence is a difficult time for all of us.”
“I think that our ability to intercede during this time, provide that break and provide that support for kids is going to change the way that they go out into the world,” he added.
“For them to have this center here,” said OC Supt. of Schools, Dr. A.J. Mijares, “to just calm them down or maybe speak to a professional, could change their discourse and maybe their whole outlook toward life.”