October 22, 2014; WDBJ-TV

School systems all over the United States are in need of mental health services, but with financial constraints, many districts are unable to fund programs of that nature. In Virginia, however, the Project AWARE Grant and the School Climate Transformation Grant will fund pilot programs in Pulaski, Montgomery, and Fairfax counties for five years with nearly $14 million.

Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education) is a federal program that aims to provide mental health first-aid training for new mental health professionals and the implementation of the Healthy Transitions program (competitive grants for supporting youth and their families for behavioral health), as reported in a 2013 Nonprofit Quarterly article.

“It’s across the board—custodians, paraprofessionals, cafeteria staff. We want everyone to have the knowledge and skills necessary to help us when students are having programs and to identify these students,” said Greg Brown, director of operations.

Virginia is not the only state implementing mental health services for students. The District of Columbia School Mental Health Program employs licensed or license-eligible social workers, psychologists, or mental health specialists to provide prevention and intervention services to students. The goal of this program is to prevent negative outcomes (both behavioral and academic) likely to result from exposure to multiple mental health risk factors.

New York City schools involve several models of service for the School Mental Health Plan including on-site mental health program, a Mobile Response Team (MRT) Program, screening the at-risk students, the At Risk for High and Middle School Teacher Training, the Early Recognition and Screening Program, presentations for staff and families, and the NYC TEEN Website.

In 2012, Social Work Today reported that one-half of all diagnosable mental health conditions begin by age 14 and one in five adolescents show symptoms of emotional distress. Ten percent of those adolescents have symptoms that impair normal, day-to-day functioning. According to the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, 70 to 80 percent of children receiving mental health services receive care in a school setting.

Are schools the right place for mental health services?—Erin Lamb