Washington, D.C. – Good morning, Chairman Gray and Members of the Committee on Health. I am Dr. Ramona Edelin, Senior Advisor of the DC Charter School Alliance. We are the recently-merged local nonprofit that advocates on behalf of public charter schools to ensure that all students in the District receive the great public education they deserve. You have known the legacy organizations that merged to form the Alliance for decades – the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools and Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS). Today, I am testifying to urge our Government’s highest possible levels of support for mental health services for students and their families.
You are well aware that the District could be facing a significant mental health crisis as the health pandemic continues to strike and social distancing and other disruptions to our everyday lives persist. Low-income residents cannot afford any additional cuts to community-based behavioral health care services. They are already our most vulnerable population — disproportionately impacted by the health emergency — and they need more, not less, help. We sincerely hope this committee will not tolerate any cuts should our Mayor revise the FY 2021 budget.
The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, economic shutdown, distance learning in the context of a severe digital divide, and other “new normals” means that more children and families are at risk of mental health challenges. Policymakers must take the necessary steps—such as normalizing, protecting, and adequately funding residents’ access to tele-health services—to ensure that adults can be healthy enough to provide for their families and children can be ready to learn virtually or in-person once schools reopen safely.
Now more than ever, DC’s most vulnerable children and families need strong, consistent access to high-quality and affordable behavioral health care services. Low-income families in DC—most of whom are Black, Brown, or Immigrant—are facing devastating coronavirus health outcomes and increased housing, food, and economic insecurity which add additional stress and trauma to their lives. The stark and unconscionable inequities not just of decades, but of centuries, have been laid bare; and we as witnesses cannot turn a blind eye to these injustices.
By Dr. Ramona H. Edelin
Senior Advisor, DC Charter School Alliance