Center for MH in Schools & Student/Learning Supports  


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Information and resources on topics of current interest

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Analysis briefs delineating ongoing issues relevant to MH in schools and addressing barriers to learning and teaching
Safe Schools and Mental Health: More of the Same or
an Opportunity to Really Improve Schools

Test Scores Plateauing? Here’s What’s Missing in School Improvement Efforts

School Reform is Failing to Address Barriers to Learning

Getting Back to Real Policy Basics:
Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child

Improving Schools? Not Another Special Initiative!

What is Personalized Learning?

Interview discussing a strategy to bring behavioral health services to schools

More commentaries are listed as part of the National Initiative for Transforming Student/Learning Supports, click here

Concerns Related to Agencies Working in Schools

 One of the responses to the school shootings of the past year has been an increased focus on mental health in schools. This provides an impetus for school and district owned student support personnel to strengthen their programs for prevention and early intervention. It also increases interest and concerns about working with community resources.

We recently received the following request from a community mental health provider about working with schools.

         "I am a program manager for behavioral health services: children and youth services. We are in the beginning stages of putting together a proposal to integrate behavioral health services on to school campuses. One of my first tasks is conducting key informant interviews with school based providers who can describe implementation and how it works in different kinds of areas.
            >In an ideal world, what would clinical staff be doing on or off the school campus?
            >Are there logistical issues that we should be aware of and how were they overcome? In previous
                projects, we struggled to get consent forms returned which in turn became a barrier to delivering
                timely services.
       >What has worked well and what hasn't worked well?
        >Is there a specific modality that is being utilized Are groups or individual services a better fit?
       >Do you have further recommendations about how to move forward with the proposed project?”

Our Center Response was:

Learning from what has been tried is a great first step. For a range of resources related to the above, see our online clearinghouse Quick Find –

    >Collaboration: School, community, interagency – 

The Center resource that most directly addresses the matter is

    >Integrating Mental Health in Schools: Schools, School-Based Centers, and Community Programs Working Together – 
Here is a brief excerpt:
    "...All who work in or with schools know that the demand for services and programs outstrips resources almost as soon as they are introduced at the school site. Where schools are lucky enough to have partnerships with community agencies, valuable new assistance is available. To use these and existing resources most effectively, however, there is a need for thoughtful plans for weaving them together with school programs and personnel...
   Enhancing mental health services for all students in the school involves
        • Coordination and integration among all programs at the school
        • Expanding the range of school based and school linked intervention options
These objectives are only possible through establishment of a close working relationship with school staff who are responsible for psychosocial programs. In many schools, there are a range of prevention and corrective activities oriented to students' needs and problems.
    Some programs are provided through a school district, others are carried out at or linked to targeted schools. The interventions may be offered to all students in a school, to those in specified grades, to those identified as ‘at risk', and/or to those in need of compensatory education and treatment. The activities may be implemented in regular or special education classrooms or as ‘pull out' programs. The focus may be on prevention of violence, pregnancy, dropout, substance abuse, and so forth. Finding the best match between the student's needs and available options is a first step. Creating new options for unmet student needs is the second step....
   Coordination between agency and school programs to improve effectiveness requires:
        • cooperative working relationships to integrate (and expand) programs/services
        • integrated monitoring or individual student's care and related problem solving in ways that
            appropriately account for confidentiality.
   Once good coordination is established, it is time to focus on expanding the range of available intervention options with a view to comprehensive and integrated activity. Such a focus includes intervention to both correct existing problems and prevent future problems. That is,
        • service options to increase the likelihood of a good intervention match for a particular student using
            procedures that are no more intrusive and restrictive than is essential
        • prevention and positive mental health programs
        • activities designed to improve the school's psychosocial climate.
    To accomplish all this some agency staff may need to design their roles to create time for working intensively with others at the school. This has the potential to enhance results for a great many more youngsters....
    Agencies that successfully integrate with other school programs negotiate agreements with relevant school personnel and facilitate specific ways the agency and school programs work to complement each other and expand what is available for students. Agency and school staff will find among their ranks a wide range of expertise. Accounting for this expertise is an invaluable way for agency and school staff to appreciate each other and build positive working relationships for the benefit of students and their families.
   Examples of four key areas for immediate collaboration are:
        (1) resource mapping and establishment of an integrated referral system
        (2) providing staff development with respect to prereferral interventions
        (3) creating guidelines that protect confidentiality, while still allowing for productive
                communication between the family and school staff
        (4) teaming with the family and key school and community staff to enhance resource use....
    It is sometimes hard for an agency to integrate with a school in a coordinated way if there is no common meeting ground. A Learning Support Leadership Team provides a vehicle for building working relationships. Where such a team has been created, it has been instrumental in integrating the agency into the school's ongoing life. The team can work on ‘turf' and operational problems, develop plans to ensure a coordinated set of services, and generally improve the school's focus on mental health. The following guidelines have been used in establishing such a team:
        • Start by surveying key school staff to identify existing school based psychosocial programs and who
            operates them
        • Invite key people from school, center and community to a meeting to discuss how the various
            psychosocial programs interface with each other.
        • Identify a school administrator who will be the official liaison for the agency.
        • Plan to meet on a regular basis to work through coordination and integration problems with a long-term
            goal of increasing resources available....