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

Addressing Barriers to Learning
New Directions for Mental Health in Schools

Section B Continued

Mapping and matching resources and needs.
The literature on resource coordination makes it clear that a first step in countering fragmentation involves "mapping" resources by identifying what exists at a site (e.g., enumerating programs and services that are in place to support students, families, and staff; outlining referral and case management procedures). A comprehensive form of "needs assessment" is generated as resource mapping is paired with surveys of the unmet needs of students, their families, and school staff.

Based on analyses of what is available, effective, and needed, strategies can be formulated for resource enhancement. These focus on (a) outreach to link with additional resources at other schools, district sites, and in the community and (b) better ways to use existing resources. (The process of outreach to community agencies is made easier where there is policy and organization supporting school-community collaboration. However, actual establishment of formal connections remains complex and is becoming more difficult as publicly-funded community resources dwindle.)

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of mapping and analyzing resources is that the products provide a sound basis for improving cost-effectiveness. In schools and community agencies, there is acknowledged redundancy stemming from ill-conceived policies and lack of coordination. These facts do not translate into evidence that there are pools of unneeded personnel; they simply suggest there are resources that can be used in different ways to address unmet needs. Given that additional funding for reform is hard to come by, such redeployment of resources is the primary answer to the ubiquitous question: Where will we find the funds?

A Team to Manage Resources

As discussed in another unit, most school health and human service programs (as well as compensatory and special education programs) are developed and function in relative isolation of each other. Available evidence suggests this produces fragmentation which, in turn, results in waste and limited efficacy. National, state, and local initiatives aimed at increasing coordination and integration of community services are just beginning to direct school policy makers to a closer look at school-owned services. At the same time, school practitioners are realizing that since they can't work any harder, they must work smarter. For some, working smarter translates into new strategies for coordinating, integrating, and redeploying resources. Such efforts are reflected in new (a) processes for mapping and matching resources and needs and (b) mechanisms for resource coordination and enhancement. (Space precludes discussing the topic here, but all efforts to work smarter obviously can be enhanced through appropriate use of advanced technology.)

An example of a mechanism designed to reduce fragmentation and enhance resource availability and use (with a view to enhancing cost-efficacy) is seen in the concept of a resource coordinating team. Creation of such a school-based team provides a good mechanism for starting to weave together existing school and community resources and encourage services and programs to function in an increasingly cohesive way.

A resource coordinating team differs from teams created to review individual students (such as a student study team or a teacher assistance team). That is, its focus is not on specific cases, but on clarifying resources and their best use. In doing so, it provides what often is a missing mechanism for managing and enhancing systems to coordinate, integrate, and strengthen interventions. For example, this mechanism can be used to weave together the eight components of school health programs to better address such problems as on-campus violence, substance abuse, depression, and eating disorders. Such a team can be assigned responsibility for (a) mapping and analyzing activity and resources with a view to improving coordination, (b) ensuring there are effective systems for referral, case management, and quality assurance, (c) guaranteeing appropriate procedures for effective management of programs and information and for communication among school staff and with the home, and (d) exploring ways to redeploy and enhance resources -- such as clarifying which activities are nonproductive and suggesting better uses for the resources, as well as reaching out to connect with additional resources in the school district and community.

Although a resource coordinating team might be created solely around psychosocial programs, such a mechanism is meant to bring together representatives of all major programs and services supporting a school's instructional component (e.g., guidance counselors, school psychologists, nurses, social workers, attendance and dropout counselors, health educators, special education staff, bilingual program coordinators). This includes representatives of any community agency that is significantly involved at the school. It also includes the energies and expertise of one of the site's administrators, regular classroom teachers, noncertificated staff, parents, and older students. Where creation of "another team" is seen as a burden, existing teams can be asked to broaden their scope. Teams that already have a core of relevant expertise, such as student study teams, teacher assistance teams, and school crisis teams, have demonstrated the ability to extend their focus to resource coordination.

Properly constituted, trained, and supported, a resource coordinating team can complement the work of the site's governance body through providing on-site overview, leadership, and advocacy for all activity aimed at addressing barriers to learning and enhancing healthy development. Having at least one representative from the resource coordinating team on the school's governing and planning bodies helps ensure that essential programs and services are maintained, improved, and increasingly integrated with classroom instruction.

Local Schools Working Together

To facilitate resource coordination and enhancement among a complex of schools (e.g., a high school and its feeder middle and elementary schools), a resource coordinating council can be established by bringing together representatives of each school's resource coordinating team. Such a complex of schools needs to work together because in many cases they are concerned with the same families (e.g., a family often has children at each level of schooling). Moreover, schools in a given locale try to establish linkages with the same community resources. A coordinating council for a complex of schools provides a mechanism to help ensure cohesive and equitable deployment of such resources.

For more about...

As a follow-up aid for you and your school, included in the accompanying material is an introductory packet entitled Working Together: From School-Based Teams to School-Higher Education Connections -- prepared by the Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA.

For more about Resource Coordinating Teams, see:
H.S. Adelman (1993). School-linked mental health interventions: Toward mechanisms for service coordination and integration. Journal of Community Psychology, 21, 309-319.

L. Rosenblum, M.B. DiCecco, L. Taylor, & H.S. Adelman (1995).
Upgrading school support programs through collaboration: Resource Coordinating Teams. Social Work in Education, 17, 117-124.

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Contents of Section B

Some General Guidelines for Establishing School-Site Collaborative Teams Focused on Addressing Barriers to Learning

Two basic problems in forming collaborative teams at school-sites are (a) identifying and deploying committed and able personnel and (b) establishing an organizational structure that provides sufficient time and nurtures the competence and commitment of team members. The following are some suggestions that can help in dealing with these problems.

  1. For staff, job descriptions and evaluations must reflect a policy that personnel are expected to work in a coordinated and increasingly integrated way with the aim of maximizing resource use and enhancing effectiveness.
  2. To maximize resource coordination and enhancement at a school, every staff member must be encouraged to participate on some team designed to improve students' classroom functioning. The importance of such teams should be recognized through provision of time and resources that allow team members to build capacity and work effectively together.
  3. Teams may consist of current resource staff, special project staff, teachers, site administrators, parents, older students, and others from the community. In this last regard, representatives of school-linked community services must be included. Individuals should be encouraged to choose a team whose work interests them.
  4. Group should vary in size -- from two to as many as are needed and interested. Major criteria used in determining size should be factors associated with efficient and effective functioning. The larger the group, the harder it is to find a meeting time and the longer each meeting tends to run. Frequency of meetings depends on the group's functions, time availability, and ambitions. Properly designed and trained teams can accomplish a great deal through informal communication and short meetings.
  5. The core of a team is staff who have or will acquire the ability to carry out identified functions and make the mechanism work; others can be auxiliary members. All should be committed to the team's mission. Building team commitment and competence should be one major focus of school management policies and programs.
  6. Because several teams require the expertise of the same staff (nurse, psychologist, counselor, resource teacher, social worker), these individuals will necessarily be on more than one team.
  7. Each team needs a dedicated leader/facilitator who has the ability to keep the group task-focused and productive and someone who records decisions and plans and reminds members of planned activity and products.
  8. Team functioning is enhanced through use of computer technology (management systems, electronic bulletin boards and mail, resource clearinghouses). Such technology facilitates communication, networking, program planning and implementation, linking activity, and a variety of budgeting, scheduling, and other management concerns.
  9. Effective teams should be able to produce savings in terms of time and resources through appropriately addressing their areas of focus. In addition, by tapping into public health-care funds, a district may be able to underwrite some of the costs of those team members who also provide specific services.

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Contents of Section B

Test Questions -- Unit III: Section B

(1) Enumerate two of the basis tasks for primary managers of care as discussed in this unit.



(2) Enumerate two of the major functions of a school-based team designed to manage resources as discussed in this unit.



(3) Parents can be part of a management of care team.

True ____ False____

(4) Perhaps the most valuable aspect of mapping and analyzing a school's resources for addressing barriers to learning and promoting healthy development is that the products provide a sound basis for improving cost-effectiveness.

True ____ False____

(5) A school-based Resource Coordinating Team has the same functions as a team created to review individual students.

True ____ False____

This is the end of Unit III Section B.

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Unit III Section C

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Contents of Section B
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