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UCLA School Mental Health Project
Center for Mental Health in Schools
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Continuing Education:

Addressing Barriers to Learning
New Directions for Mental Health in Schools


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There is a simple truth that every professional working in schools knows: social, emotional, and physical health deficits and other persistent barriers to learning must be addressed if students are to learn effectively and schools are to accomplish their educational mission. It would be wonderful if the process of addressing such barriers could be handled solely by families or public and private community agencies. Unfortunately, these agencies are unable to do the job alone. Thus, if school reform is to be effective, schools must play a major role in easing problems, increasing opportunities, and enhancing the well-being of students and families.

Recognizing the crisis related to young people's well-being, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched a variety of initiatives aimed at enhancing the ability of schools to meet the needs of students and their families. One such effort focuses on mental health in schools. As part of this endeavor, two national training and technical assistance centers for mental health in schools were established in 1995 by the Health Resources and Services Administration, Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, Office of Adolescent Health: one center is at UCLA and the other at the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

It is clear that the success of any initiative focused on mental health in schools is dependent on the wide involvement and continuing education of all school personnel. Therefore, one of the major tasks of the UCLA School Mental Health Project's Center for Mental Health in Schools is development of continuing education materials for better mental health interventions in the context of moving toward a comprehensive, integrated approach to addressing barriers to student learning. A comprehensive, integrated approach encompasses (a) prevention and prereferral interventions for mild problems, (b) high visibility programs for high-frequency psychosocial problems, and (c) strategies to assist with severe and pervasive mental health problems. A comprehensive approach recognizes the role school, home, and community life play in creating and correcting young people's problems, especially those who are under-served and hard-to-reach.

We hope that the material contained here represents a timely and progressive approach. At the same time, the content, like the field itself, is seen as in a state of continuous evolution. Thus, we are extremely interested in receiving your feedback. Please send your comments to: Howard S. Adelman and Linda Taylor, Co-Directors, Center for Mental Health in Schools, UCLA, Department of Psychology, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563 or visit our Guestbook & Feedback page.