The Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) and Department of Health (DOH) released new plans to expand school health and behavioral health services to improve student academic and health outcomes across the District. DBH’s School Mental Health Program and DOH’s School Health Services Program both emphasize the importance of integration, alignment, and collaboration among the school, clinicians, and the community to best support a child’s health and learning. While each health model evolved with respect to the specific type of services they provide, both DOH and DBH programs are moving toward a coordinated approach to improving student health outcomes and will be implemented throughout the 2017-2018 school year.
The health and well-being of all students is the driving force behind the new health programs. Recognizing both the important role student health plays in a child’s academic success and the opportunity the school setting provides to impact student health, DOH and DBH worked closely and with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), DC Public Schools leadership, the DC Public Charter School Board and interagency partners, advocates and community-based partners to craft the holistic health frameworks.
The new School Mental Health Program expands school-based behavioral health services to every DC Public School and Public Charter School by using all behavioral health resources available in the District—not just DBH resources—in a coordinated and integrated way to support the social and emotional well-being of students. Currently, less than 30 percent of District schools receive behavioral health services from DBH clinicians. The School Mental Health Program will be implemented in phases, giving students, schools and providers the time needed to ensure a successful transition to the expanding services.
The goal of the new School Health Services Program is to ensure that children are healthy and ready to learn. It is an update to the current Coordinated School Health approach and based on the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Model developed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. The model is child-centered and includes services to take care of a child’s daily needs and coordinate ongoing care by leveraging community resources. Under the new program, school nurses and allied health professionals (certified nursing assistants or health care technicians) will provide each school with 40 hours of clinical coverage for students each week. In addition, the new program will help parents to coordinate care and navigate community services to meet the preventive and chronic health needs of their children.