App looks to improve mental health outcomes for Lassen County schools

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – Lassen Union High School District is using an app to bridge the gap between students and their well being by putting their mental health literally, in the palms of their hands.

Maria Barrera will tell you that the pandemic opened her eyes to how dire the need mental health is for kids.

“I saw an article about an 8-year-old dying of suicide and it broke my heart. We’re in a crisis, we’ve been in a crisis,” said Barrera.

Barrera became determined to create something different to help support teachers and students. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in six children ages 6–17 experience a mental health disorder each year but only half receive services. Barrera thinks this app, could be a game changer based off of how accessible and convenient it is.

“Our goal as an organization is to really meet young people where they are. Turns out a lot of them are on their phones or their computers. But we work with schools to take that one step further,” said Barrera.

Barrera’s app is called Clayful, and what it does is connect students with mental health coaches through text who deliver one on one support. Clayful says that students who participated during the 2022-2023 school year had significantly better attendance rates. The startup claims that students with zero chats had an average attendance rate of 91%, while students with chats had an average attendance rate of 95%. If Clayful coaches encounter a crisis situation, they work with a district’s reporting system and safety team.

Facing a shortage of counselors, Superintendent of Lassen Union High School District, Morgan Nugent, saw Clayful as a way to bridge the gap between students and their mental health. He says, he cant believe he didn’t start this program sooner.

“Times have changed. It’s a situation where kids don’t want to be seen walking into a counselors office because there is already a stigma with it,” Nugent said.

The program was implemented back in August, but Nugent can already see a difference, even sharing a testimonial from one of the kids at his schools:

“Thanks for the chat, I’m going be real honest, I didn’t know what I was going to do tonight and then I realized I had Clayful. I started typing and I didn’t do the bad things I thought I was going to do. So thank you for that and I hope you know you are very appreciated,” anonymous student.