- Students may have access to mental health services at school.
- School mental health professionals include school counselors, psychologists, and social workers.
- Many public schools say they have poor access to licensed mental health professionals and lack funding for their programs.
With students returning to classrooms this fall, families, parents and teachers may be concerned about their children’s mental health. It may be one of the few places you can talk to a mental health professional if you don’t have adequate insurance.
Gwendolyn Lawson, a researcher in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said: (CHOP), an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said in an email to Changing America. “Schools are one of the most common settings for young people to receive mental health services, and can facilitate access to services and reduce stigma.”
How students access the service
Mental health services are often available in schools, but the process of accessing services may vary from district to district or from school to school. According to the U.S. Department of State, 96% of schools will report that they are providing mental health services in the 2021-22 school year. Only 56% of schools responded that they “agreed somewhat or strongly”. Education’s 2022 School Pulse Panel survey.
In some circumstances, schools may have instituted a system of universal screening or “wellness checks” to help identify students who could benefit from additional support. “In most schools, parents, guardians, or students themselves contact school counselors, social workers, or other school mental health professionals to assist them in accessing services. You can have it done,” he says Lawson. “That professional can refer you to resources within your school or within your community, depending on what is available.”
In addition to providing individualized treatment to children and adolescents, school mental health providers often work with teachers, families, and other important people in a child’s life. They may also conduct group-based interventions, family-based interventions, and provide external referrals, general outreach and assessment.
Parents and guardians concerned about their child’s mental health can contact the school and ask about services available in the school or community. Mental health services may be available through local mental health clinics. They can also share concerns with their pediatrician, who may be able to point them in the right direction, notes Lawson.
Challenges to Access: Funding
According to the School Pulse Panel, 48% of public schools say their mental health programs are underfunded.
In a white paper published by CHOP, Lawson and colleagues discuss the challenges of building and maintaining mental health programs in schools. They are exploring ways to leverage Medicaid to help pay for programs in schools.
“One of the challenges relates to sustainable funding for mental health services in schools.Using Medicaid to fund services is promising, but many schools lack access to these funds. You may face barriers in doing so,” Lawson says. “Funding prevention and early intervention services (important for strong school mental health programs) and supporting access to uninsured and underinsured students is particularly challenging.”
Another potential source of funding is the 2021 American Rescue Plan, which has allocated $3.5 billion in block grants to address behavioral health disorders. Recently, it was announced that Oregon will receive its first grant through plans for community-based programs to help people experiencing mental health and/or substance use crises.
Access Challenges: Staffing
Many schools across the country are experiencing teacher shortages. Shortages of school counselors, social workers and other mental health professionals are also a concern. According to the School Pulse Panel, 57% of public schools said they had insufficient access to licensed mental health professionals, and 61% said they had insufficient mental health staff to manage their caseload. were insufficient.
Understaffed mental health programs can ultimately limit access to care and put additional pressure on existing providers.Nationally recommended psychologist student-to-staff ratio is 1 psychologist for 500 students, and for school counselors and social workers, 1 staff member for 250 students. The U.S. Department of Education reports that many public schools do not meet these ratios.
student needs support
The U.S. Surgeon General has issued recommendations for youth mental health due to the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2021. The School Pulse panel found that 70% of his schools reported an increase in the percentage of students seeking mental health support since the start of the pandemic. School staff also need mental health support, with 29% of schools saying more staff have requested services since the start of the pandemic.
Lawson notes that systems need to be developed to better support schools in selecting and implementing culturally appropriate and evidence-based interventions as part of school mental health services. increase.
- The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) provides support and educational resources.
- Therapy4thePeople has a directory of low cost mental health services and support.
- The Society of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology has a website that provides evidence-based treatment information and other resources for parents and caregivers.