[Skip to Content]☰ MENU
Facebook  Linkedin  Join our Mailing List   twitter   Vimeo  Blog   

Mental Health and School

Young boy learningEducation systems and individual schools are critical partners within comprehensive systems of care for children and youth with mental health needs and their families. School-based mental health services are a major strategy for increasing the capacity to reach and serve students with mental health needs and for improving their social, emotional and academic outcomes. School-based services are recognized by many as a means of identifying and treating mental health problems at an early stage and before they become severe. The Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health (U.S. DHHHS, 1999), the report from the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education (U.S. Department of Education, 2002), and the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (2003) all address the importance of providing mental health services for children in schools. The National Technical Assistance Center sees these services as part of an overall public health approach to delivering mental health services that emphasizes mental health promotion activities, the prevention of problems, early identification and intervention before problems become severe, and treatment. For example, following the public health approach, an evidence-based practice like Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS) uses a continuum of educational and treatment interventions to meet the needs of all students within a school environment.

School-Based Mental Health Activities

IDEA Partnership Community of Practice (COP): Education As An Essential Component in Systems of Care.
The mission of this Practice Group is to promote the integration of education and mental health services, along with family partnerships, as part of a systems of care approach to service delivery. This proactive, national level practice group supports resource sharing, cross agency training, and collaborative professional development across the different child serving systems. To find out more, visit http://sharedwork.org.

Federal/National Partnership Workgroup on Integration of Education and Mental Health is a SAMHSA led initiative. The National Technical Assistance Center provides coordination of three workgroups under the Federal/National Partnership, including this workgroup. The purpose of the Workgroup on Integration of Education and Mental Health is to develop a coordinated federal process to support optimal integration of education and mental health services and supports. Specifically, this workgroup has identified the following mission: “To create and maintain a coordinated, collaborative Federal network involving a range of child-serving agencies to enhance the social and emotional well-being, academic success, life and employment skills of preschool aged children, youth and young adults.” The action plan calls for the federal partners to:

  • "Identify shared concepts, language, and agency priorities in supporting the enhancement of preschool aged children's, youth and young adults social and emotional well-being, academic success, and life and employment skills;
  • Develop processes for ongoing collaboration and learning across Federal agencies;
  • Identify principles and values essential to successful integration across Federal partners; and
  • Create action steps for Federal partners to implement shared priorities.”

Safe School Healthy Students Grantees
The Center provides training and consultation to grantees around policy development to promote services integration.

Baltimore Expanded School Mental Health Evaluation
The Center is conducting one of the first in-depth evaluations of a comprehensive Expanded School Mental Health (ESMH) program. The rapid expansion of ESMH into Baltimore’s schools has been widely assumed to be beneficial for students, families and faculty. Evidence from these programs suggests that ESMH enhances the overall school climate, reduces the stigma associated with receiving help for mental health issues and enhances the perceived support of school staff (Bruns et al, 2004). However, both nationally and locally, assumptions about the benefits of ESMH remain untested (Weist & Evans, 2005). The vast majority of ESMH programs are not being systematically evaluated, compromising advocacy and policy enhancement efforts. This effort will provide critical data to guide planning and implementation of school mental health services and supports in the future. In addition to benefiting the program, it is hoped the evaluation will inform the organization of other, similar national and local evaluation efforts.

Baltimore is recognized as a leader in the state of Maryland and in the nation for its ability to provide ESMH services to its public school students. Since 1987, ESMH services have complemented and supplemented the services provided by school social workers, psychologists and guidance counselors. The ESMH services are intended to address barriers to learning, to enable students to make better use of educational programs in their schools, and to provide an alternative to mental health services provided within the Special Education system. Through partnerships between the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) and a number of community-based mental health programs, a greater range of mental health services have been made available to students identified as experiencing, or being at risk of, emotional or behavioral difficulties (Flaherty et al, 1998; Flaherty & Weist, 1999; Walrath et al., 2004).


Kutash, K., Duchnowski, A.J., Robbins, V., & Keenan, S. "School-based Mental Health Services in Systems of Care", Chapter 20, The System of Care Handbook (2008)

Way to Go: School Success for Children with Mental Health Care Needs, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, (2006)

The 16th Annual Conference on Advancing School Mental Health was held in Charleston, South Carolina on September 22 – 24, 2011. The theme this year was - School Mental Health: Achieving Student Success. Below you will find links for 2 PowerPoint presentations presented at the conference by staff members of the TA Center:

Title: Evaluation as a Tool for Improving Student Outcomes and Sustainability

Title: Implementing a School Behavioral Health Model for Military Impacted Students and for the Entire School Community: Using Systems of Care Approaches and a Public Health Framework to Inform Policy and Practice