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.