ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- New York school districts need help with mental health services (MHS). Many of which don’t meet the state’s recommendations for providers, according to State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

Districts are understaffed, they don’t have enough services available, and lack consistent oversight, according to a report released from DiNapoli’s office. Limited staffing and services means school districts are also limited in the ways they can help students with mental health issues, the report said.

“The State Education Department should work with state and local entities to ensure resources to address the problem are available and prioritize mental health instruction and outreach among school districts so students and staff can recognize warning signs of distress and know how to get help,” DiNapoli said.

Of the 686 school districts (not including New York City) analyzed by the Comptroller’s Office (OSC), the audit found:

  • 95% (653) did not meet the recommended ratio of one school social worker for every 250 students
  • 66% (450) districts did not meet the recommended ratio of one school counselor for every 250 students
  • 50% (344) did not meet the recommended ratio of one school psychologist for every 500 students

The report recommended that the New York State Education Department (NYSED) develop a way to monitor if school districts are providing mental health education required by state law and that they look at the possibility of partnering with state and local entities to decide whether districts should meet certain mental health professional staffing levels.

In its response to the OSC audit, NYSED said they will develop a system that will require school districts to submit an annual form stating they met the states requirements for mental health education. Although they routinely work with state and local entities, NYSED said they will continue their efforts and advocate for more money that would help schools continue this effort as well.

“The Department acknowledges the critical importance of including mental health as a component of school health curriculum and welcomes OSC’s input regarding how the Department may further support schools and students in this endeavor,” said NYSED Executive Deputy Commissioner, Sharon Cates-Williams.

Read OSC’s full audit report below: