School-Based Supports and Services
Many school-based mental health services are provided by school-employed guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, and paraprofessionals. They are specially trained and work to help children be successful at school. In Connecticut, The State Board of Education’s Position Paper on Student Support Services recommends support services for students to include school counseling, school nursing, school psychology, school social work, speech-language pathology and audiology. To address students’ emotional, behavioral, and mental and physical health needs, the Board recommends that every school district develop, adopt and implement a collaborative approach to service delivery that involves effective use of student support services personnel, parental involvement and community-based resources.
Every school district in Connecticut and across the country will be a little different in the range of services and supports it offers. The availability of services is often determined by the size and available resources of the community, yet access to support services is available to some degree in all schools. As a parent or caregiver, it is important for you to understand the range of services and supports offered by your school and your school district. Many services are available to any child in need, while other services are limited. In some cases, special services are only available if your child has an IEP.
Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
Many schools implement Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). This is a school-wide model for choosing and integrating research-based methods to provide the best academic and behavioral outcomes for all students. PBIS uses a three-tiered model to put in place strategies to prevent academic and behavioral difficulties for all students, including those at risk of developing problems or with high levels of need. Other services or programs designed to address mental health include positive extracurricular or afterschool activities or clubs to promote positive social interaction among peers and opportunities for students to learn skills and experience success in a supportive environment.
To find the PBIS coordinator in your state, please click here.
Types of School-Based Services and Supports
School-Based Health Clinics
In some communities, there are “School-Based Health Clinics” where students and their families can come to the school for all medical, social-emotional, and/or behavioral issues. For a list of Connecticut State Funded School-Based Health Clinics, please click here. In your state, you can ask for a list of school-based health clinics from the Department of Public Health, the Department of Education or your Board of Education. School-based health clinics provide a range of supports for children and families including physical and mental health services. In communities that have school-based health clinics, these services are available to all children who attend that school.
You can also get help from your child’s pediatrician or from community mental health providers. To find a qualified mental health professional, you can talk with your private insurance company who can give you a list of preferred providers in your area. If you live in Connecticut and have HUSKY, you can ask the Behavioral Health Partnership (BHP) to help you find a provider or you can call 2-1-1. You can also get help from a licensed outpatient psychiatric clinic. For a list of Connecticut clinics, click here. To learn more about how to get the best help, please click here.
Student Services or Pupil Services
Each district has a Student Services or Pupil Services Department that oversees Special Education. The following types of support services provided in the school include: Screening and Assessment, Behavior Management Consultation, Case Management, Crisis Intervention, Individual Counseling, Group Interventions, Medication Management, and Family Support Services. All services may not be available in every school district or may be limited. For example, a district may have one social worker that works part-time at several different schools. Or, a district may provide some specialized services in select schools so that students with a particular need are placed together in one school program. In addition, some services may be linked or accessed through the school, but provided in the community by outside providers, often in after-school hours.
Behavioral Health Consultation
Behavioral Health Consultation is provided primarily in early childcare settings for children up to age 8. A consultant works with families to provide prevention services such as giving parents and caregivers tips for creating a positive home environment, information about developmental stages, may provide training for families on how to manage difficult behaviors, and can help refer and connect families to additional services in the community outside of the school. Consultants may also provide training to or work with classroom teachers to help them incorporate unique strategies or additional supports to assist a particular student.
If your child is currently experiencing emotional or behavioral difficulties in school or is at risk for developing problems, they may have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with another adult in the school or may be able to meet together with a small group of peers. Meeting one-on-one allows your child to receive individualized attention in a private setting with a trained school counselor, social worker, or psychologist. These meetings may be prevention-based as a way to monitor any developing or potential difficulties, or may be more therapeutic with a goal of improving specific behaviors or outcomes.
Group interventions are a way for your child to receive services or support together with peers who may be experiencing similar challenges or who are at risk for emotional or behavioral difficulties. Groups may be focused on preventing problems by developing social skills or building positive peer relationships, or may be more therapeutic to address more serious or ongoing problems, such as anger management, grief and loss, or dealing with divorce. Groups are often led by a school social worker, psychologist, or counselor and may occur during or after-school hours.
Family Support Services
Often a child who is experiencing difficulty in school may also be experiencing problems at home. Many times there are problems that impact the whole family such as family stress, a traumatic event, poverty, or other concerns. Some schools provide services to help meet basic needs of a student or their family to help improve the child’s functioning at school. For example, schools may provide computers or resource libraries for parents to access, offer educational programming for parents, provide support for seeking employment, free meals or clothing, or referrals to other community-based services and supports. These services may be coordinated by a parent liaison, social worker, or counselor in the school.
For students with multiple service needs, case management can help to coordinate the services into one plan of care for the child and family. Often a school social worker or counselor may take on the role of case manager to help maintain contact between service providers, to oversee adherence to the plan, advocate to meet the student’s identified needs, and monitor the child’s progress.
If a child needs psychotropic medication to treat an identified behavioral health condition, the school can assist the child in managing their medication during the school day. A school nurse or trained school based health clinician will administer the indicated dosage to the child, monitor symptoms and side effects, and coordinate with outside medical providers such as your child’s pediatrician.
Referral to Community-Based Services
When a student or family requires services and supports not available through the school or district, the school may refer the child and family to a community-based provider who can better meet their needs. These providers may be sub-contracted to provide services to the school, may have informal agreements in place to guide the types of services to be offered, or in some instances may be able create a faster linkage to services than the family may be able to on their own. School staff may be able to assist the family in filling out paperwork, coordinating appointments within the school day, and following up with referral sources to ensure that appropriate services were put in place.
School-Based Substance Abuse Prevention Programs
Teaching children about harmful effects of substance abuse when they are young is key to preventing later abuse of cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs. One way of doing this is through health and substance abuse education in the schools. The target of these health promotion programs is not just at-risk children, but all children as a model of universal substance abuse prevention.
SCHOOL-LINKED SERVICES AND SUPPORTS
Care Coordination provides youths and families in the community with in-home case management services. The goal of Care Coordination is to establish strategies to help reach family goals established amongst their team of family supports and community providers. This program is non-clinical and is free to any youth and family in the State of Connecticut between the ages of 4-18 years old who has a mental health diagnosis. Care Coordination collaborates with school members (teachers, social workers, guidance counselors) community supports (athletic coaches, role models, therapists) along with many other members of the community (probation officers, grandparents, after-school program staff) to work towards a family driven goal. To find the Care Coordination provider in your area, click here.
When a child is having suicidal thoughts, is having difficulty functioning with every day tasks, is unable to express him or herself effectively, or if there is a general concern for a youth, crisis intervention is needed to help address a child’s functioning. During crisis intervention, a social worker, school psychologist, guidance counselor or a therapist may use a crisis intervention approach to alleviate the symptoms and link the child and family to services in the community. An example of crisis intervention is Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services. (EMPS)
Students actively involved in positive activities often exhibit better academic functioning and get along better with their peers. After-school or extracurricular activities can be a great way to promote positive youth development, promote positive interactions with peers, build self-esteem, and develop skills among youth. Schools often partner with community-based agencies to promote or provide safe, supportive environments for afterschool activity that students may learn about through school newsletters, flyers, or from other students at the school.