Youth’s behavioral health can directly affect their ability to learn and succeed in school and beyond, yet most youth with behavioral health concerns do not receive necessary care. Schools are increasingly being called upon to address students’ behavioral health needs. This brief describes the behavioral health needs of California students and describes resources for California schools and districts to address these needs. It is based on findings from a statewide principals survey and the 2016-17 California Healthy Kids Survey to inform the California Department of Education’s Project Cal-Well Mental Health Program.
Through Project Cal-Well, the California Department of Education (CDE) and its partner local education agencies implemented a variety of programs to increase awareness of students’ mental health needs and access to mental health supports.
This report summarizes findings from a statewide survey of principals to assess their perceptions of the availability of existing mental health services, barriers to service provision, and staff professional development needs related to student mental health in California schools. Survey findings highlighted increased mental health needs, as well as increased provision of mental health school supports from 2016-17 to 2018-19.
The California Department of Education (CDE) is committed to increasing mental health services to support the socioemotional well-being of all students. In 2014, CDE was awarded a five-year Federal grant to implement Project Cal-Well statewide and in partnership with three local education agencies (LEAs).
The Cal-Well mission is to increase awareness of and improve mental health and wellness of California’s students, and provide training for school personnel to detect and respond to mental health issues.
This brief describes the Project Cal-Well model and provides highlights of successes and lessons learned over five years of implementation.
Project Cal-Well is a five-year initiative intended to increase awareness of and improve mental health and wellness of California students in kindergarten through grade 12. Under the leadership of the California Department of Education (CDE), Project Cal-Well implements programs statewide and in partnership with participating districts and county offices of education using a three component model that focuses on student, school, and community needs and assets. The components of the model are:
- Improve school climate for schoolwide prevention
- Increase access to school-based behavioral health services
- Enhance community collaborations
This guide describes the three component model and provides schools and districts with resources and tips to support youth mental health.
Mental health can directly affect a student’s ability to learn and succeed in school and beyond. Data from the 2015-17 Biennial Statewide California Healthy Kids Survey of secondary students show that respondents have significant unmet needs that could benefit from intervention and supports.
School-based services that support students’ mental health are best delivered using a Multi-Tiered System of Support, examining data on a population level to help to identify students’ needs within each tier. A Multi-Tiered System of Support includes:
- Universal supports for all students to increase mental health awareness and improve school climate
- Targeted supports to support students at risk of developing mental health conditions
- Intensive supports or referrals to individualized services for students with significant needs
This brief examines findings from the statewide survey and explains how data on school climate, mental health, and other significant needs can inform a Multi-Tiered System of Support.
The School Mental Health Referral Pathways (SMHRP) Toolkit was funded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to help state and local education agencies and their partners develop effective systems to refer youth to mental health services providers and related supports.
The SMHRP Toolkit provides practical tools and strategies to improve coordination and collaboration both within schools and between schools and other youth-serving agencies. It supports the cultivation of systems that improve the well-being of young people by providing targeted mental health supports at the earliest sign that a need is present. In particular, the SMHRP Toolkit delves deeply into the topic of referral pathways, which are defined as the series of actions or steps taken after identifying a student with a potential mental health issue.
Referral pathways vary from community to community based on cultural and linguistic considerations and the resources available, including the public and private organizations providing services to school-aged youth. School and community-based mental health providers must understand their local community in order to ensure the seamless provision of mental health supports to youth and their families. While mental health referral pathways may involve different partners depending on the community, all effective referral pathways share similar characteristics, which include:
- Defining roles and responsibilities of all partners in a system.
- Clearly articulating procedures for managing referrals within and between partners.
- Sharing information across partners in an efficient manner.
- Monitoring the effectiveness of evidence-based interventions provided by all partners within a system.
- Ensuring intervention decisions are made collaboratively with an emphasis on what is best for young people and their families.
The SMHRP Toolkit provides guidance to support the critical, challenging work of building effective mental health referral pathways in diverse communities throughout the United States.