CREATING BETTER BEHAVIORAL HEALTH OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH THROUGH COUNTY-WIDE COLLABORATION
The Sussex Schools Comprehensive School Based Mental Health Collaborative is a multi-faceted approach to facilitate policy and practice change for School Districts’ Social Emotional Wellness efforts for youth in Sussex County.
Sussex County Health Coalition (SCHC) identified a need for increased youth behavioral health services that reduced wait time and school absences. The Coalition began engaging school districts and creating a collaborative foundational upon increased communication, best practice sharing, leveraging existing resources and advocacy for increased, barrier-free services for youth.
After receiving a small grant from Discover to launch the collaborative efforts, SCHC was awarded a Highmark BluePrints for the Community Grant to fully implement the collaborative pilot. The model engaged four school districts, with SCHC as the convener and our Behavioral Health Consultant, Rob Schmidt of Integrated Solutions, to guide the schools through their mental health plans.
Each of the four school districts were tasked with:
The four school districts doing this work were:
- Identifying current landscape of services and gaps in services
- Developing a comprehensive mental health plan for the district
- Implementing policy and practice change to increase mental health access through streamlined referral processes and on site behavioral health services for students who need it.
- Indian River School District
- Cape Henlopen School District
- Woodbridge School District
- Milford School District
During the last 18 months, the Collaborative has seen drastic improvement in the behavioral health environment for youth in our partner Districts. Each District works at a pace conducive to their needs, with each mental health plan as diverse as the landscape of Sussex County, however each District has worked toward a set of common goals as priorities for comprehensive behavioral health success:
- Identification and referral of youth in need
- Access to quality mental health professionals
- Solutions to barriers for services
- Training and infrastructure for school staff to support behavioral health access for students including suicide prevention
One of the Project Leads for this initiative, Cheryl Doucette, shared, "We were thrilled to have all School Districts attend a special group training, held on March 17, facilitated by Dr. Robert Schmidt. Dr. Julius Mullen, Chief Clinical Officer for Children & Families First of Delaware, was also on hand to share his thoughts on the importance of a positive School Climate and focused on the importance of Developmental Assets.
We are extremely happy with the results of this initiative and are committed to finding more funding to continue this very important work.”
Here is what our partners had to say about their experience with the School Based Mental Health Collaborative:
WOODBRIDGE SCHOOL DISTRICT:
Rachel Donaldson, the Social Emotional Learning Specialist with the Woodbridge School District has this to share about her experience with the Collaborative. "Sussex County Health Coalition has been a great collaborative partner in the development of school-based mental health services provided in the Woodbridge School District. We are grateful for the support and guidance provided by the Sussex County Health Coalition as we look forward to continuing to grow our services and reach more students in need of mental health services.”
INDIAN RIVER SCHOOL DISTRICT:
Jay Owens, the Director of Special Services, and Kim Taylor, the Special Outreach Services Coordinator, with Indian River School District shared the following thoughts: "Thank you to the Sussex County Health Coalition. With their continued partnership, we have been able to expand our focus to include a pilot program to influence a change in the school climate at George W. Carver Academy. Without their assistance, the expansion and quality of the S.O.S. Program would not be possible!”
MILFORD SCHOOL DISTRICT:
Jason Peel, Ed.D., the Director of Secondary Education with the Milford School District shares "Sussex County Health Coalition has helped Milford School District embark on a journey of renewed focus on the mental health needs of our students. Being a part of this collaborative has reinforced the importance of data collection and a system of overall district coordination. We are working toward establishing new and improved processes for the upcoming school year.”
CAPE HENLOPEN SCHOOL DISTRICT:
Ed Waples, the Supervisor of Student Services with the Cape Henlopen School District, shared, "Through the work we have been able to do with the Sussex County Health Coalition, we were able to take the topic of Mental and Behavioral Health off the back burner and move it the front burner. We are grateful for the resources provided by the Highmark Community Blueprints Grant. This funding allowed us to host a targeted training around Suicide Risk Assessment. My staff is better prepared to assess, refer and support their students because of this training.”
SCHC looks forward to continuing the work of the Collaborative and expanding its reach to other Districts as well as provide targeted strategies and assistance to populations and areas of need within the collaborative’s partners. We see this as a sustainable model, that could be replicated statewide.