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UCLA School Mental Health Project
Center for Mental Health in Schools
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Continuing Education: Unit III
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Obviously, schools have always played a key role in promoting
health and helping students. Now, school professionals have the opportunity and the
responsibility to play an expanded and essential role in moving schools toward a
comprehensive, integrated approach for dealing with barriers to learning, and in the
process, they can enhance efforts to promote healthy development.
Emerging reforms are reshaping the work of all school professionals. Pupil services in schools are expanding and changing rapidly. Pupil services professionals are engaged in an increasingly wide array of activity, including promotion of health and social and emotional development, direct services, outreach to families, and various forms of support for teachers and other school personnel. There is enhanced emphasis on coordination and collaboration within a school and with community agencies to provide the "network of care" necessary to deal with complex problems over time.
New directions call for functions that go beyond direct service and traditional consultation. All who work in the schools must be prepared not only to provide direct help but to act as advocates, catalysts, brokers, and facilitators of systemic reform. Particularly needed are efforts to improve intervention efficacy through integrating physical and mental health and social services. More extensively, the need is for systemic restructuring of all support programs and services into a comprehensive and cohesive set of programs.
It seems evident that the relatively small number of pupil service personnel available to schools can provide only a small proportion of the direct services needed by students. The more their expertise is used at the level of program organization, development, and maintenance, the greater the number students who will benefit.
This leads to the view that the range of functions pupil service specialists should perform for schools are
Direct service activity (e.g., crisis intervention in emergency situations; short-term assessment and treatment, including facilitating referral and case management; prevention through promotion of physical and mental health and enhancing resources through supervising professionals-in-training and volunteers),
Resource coordination and development (e.g., organizing existing programs; integrating with instruction through inservice mentoring and consultation; interfacing with community agencies to create formal linkages; preparing proposals and developing new programs; acting as an agent of change to create readiness for systemic reform and facilitating development of mechanisms for collaboration and integration; providing support for maintenance of reforms; participation on school governance and planning bodies),
Enhancing access to community resources (e.g., identifying community resources; assisting families to connect with services; working with community resources to be more responsive to the needs of a district's students; community coalition building).
Furthermore, these three areas of function should be prioritized so school-based professionals can use their time to produce the broadest impact.