Blue Shield of California funds mental health workers in schools

Amid growing concern about mental health among teens, Oakland health insurer Blue Shield of California has committed $10 million to improve access to mental health services in the state’s public schools.

It marks one of the company’s first major investments in Oakland since moving its corporate headquarters there from San Francisco this year, and comes amid a rise in rates of suicide, depression and anxiety among adolescents and teenagers.

The majority of the money is funding the salaries of mental health specialists at 19 high schools and middle schools, including nine in Oakland and San Leandro, for five years.

Blue Shield is working with researchers at UCSF to evaluate the program’s success, by comparing participating schools to those not in the program. A previous statewide mental health program called Project Cal-Well, which was funded by a federal grant and used some of the same intervention tactics in Southern California schools, showed promising results, according to Samira Soleimanpour, co-lead researcher who is evaluating the Blue Shield program.

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San Francisco Chronicle