SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ - The South Brunswick School District has sent a letter to Governor Phil Murphy urging the state to restore the funding to School Based Youth Service Programs (SBYSPs) from the Department of Children and Families. The recently proposed budget cuts all funds to these services which employs seven full-time therapists in South Brunswick schools through Rutgers University's B.R.I.D.G.E Program, according to Superintendent Scott Feder.
The district’s letter states that these therapists provide a critical service to their students, and defunding these programs is contradictory to the district’s reopening plans which prioritizes mental wellbeing. The letter also details a story from a South Brunswick family about a High School Junior who was flagged by the B.R.I.D.G.E program for having suicidal tendencies. Through the program, the student was assigned a therapist as well as a balanced medication, according to the letter.
“It is clear that many lives have been saved by having this support on-site, and having consistent staff members to provide services,” the letter reads, “This year, all students throughout the State are coping with the pandemic. Some have lost loved ones to COVID 19. Many have felt socially isolated, away from their friends, and are anxious about coming back to school this year. How could these programs be cut at a time when these children and youth need them most?”
Mr. Feder says that he is currently working along 200 other school districts to urge the state to restore the lost funding. Recently, Mr. Feder tweeted out a petition from a school counselor at Brick Memorial High School to reinstate funding for SBYSPs. To see that petition, please click here. A member of the South Brunswick School District created a website dedicated to saving SBYSPs, to see that website click here.
The South Brunswick School District has around 25 guidance counselors on staff, according to Mr. Feder. The seven therapists who work through the B.R.I.D.G.E program are more focused on crisis intervention and youth programs for children’s well-being. According to a 2018 report on SBYSPs from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, 85.01% of participants have reportedly done better in school due to the program and 84.85% of them have had a better life after school.