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In the News…

It’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, and DC’s Mayor Gray is hosting a city-wide conversation on mental health on Saturday October 12th. The forum, entitled “Creating Community Solutions DC,” aims to engage hundreds of residents to “develop strategies to reduce the stigma associated with, and increase openness to, mental-health care,” according to the City’s website. This conversation will be the starting point for a community action plan to be developed by government officials, nonprofit and private sector leaders.

This forum comes at a time when the most vulnerable DC residents may lose access to mental healthcare due to the shutdown, according to an article by DCist. Nearly 28,000 District residents receive Medicaid-funded mental health services which total $285,000 per day. The Department of Health Care Finance says it cannot make its Medicaid payments until the shutdown ends, or until Congress approves the District’s 2014 budget. The Department will reimburse providers once the government reopens, but until then, service providers will have to cover costs on their own. This crunch will hit smaller agencies first and will almost certainly cause delays in accessing critical mental health services.

Education Roundup:

For the first time, Hispanic students in Montgomery County’s kindergarten and first grade classes outnumber those of any other ethnic group. Hispanic students now make up 30.7% of the youngest grades – a significant increase in the diversity of the County’s classrooms. School officials expect to see this trend continue over the next decade, and are working to find solutions to the achievement gap which made headlines when recent scores showed a 32 point drop in SAT scores for Hispanic students compared to a 3 point drop for the rest of the County’s students overall. Data released by the County also shows that one third of all students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Read the story at the Washington Post here.

A study prepared for the DC city government recommends a 15% increase in investment to give schools the resources they need to boost achievement. The nearly $180 million funding boost would fund smaller classes, more support staff, including counselors, for students, and technology, according to an article in the Washington Post. It also recommended additional assistance for students labeled “at-risk” because they are in foster care, are homeless or are receiving TANF benefits. If all recommendations are adopted, the budgets would be made more transparent and accessible, and DC public schools would receive an additional $56.5 million in funding. Charter schools would receive $79.2. million.

Graduation rates in Northern Virginia are up, according to data announced by the Governor’s office this week. While the on-time graduation rate of 89% is unchanged statewide, most of Northern Virginia saw a slight bump in their graduation rates.

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