(WASHINGTON, DC) – Today, the Bowser Administration released new plans to expand school health and behavioral health services in Washington, DC. The Department of Behavioral Health’s (DBH) School Mental Health Program and the Department of Health’s (DOH) School Health Program will both work to improve student academic and health outcomes by emphasizing the importance of integration, alignment, and collaboration among schools, clinicians, and the community. The programs will be implemented throughout the 2017-2018 school year.
“Health issues should never be a barrier to student success in the classroom. By better coordinating our efforts and programs, we can ensure that more students are accessing the types of care that will enable them to succeed at school and in life,” said Mayor Bowser. “Because of these expansions to physical and mental health services, we will be able to work with families and communities earlier and more often to provide our students with the supports they need to thrive.”
Currently, fewer than 30 percent of District schools receive behavioral health services from DBH clinicians. The new School Mental Health Program will expand 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. The School Mental Health Program will be implemented in phases, giving students, schools, and providers time to successfully transition to the expanded services.
“For the first time, we have plans to expand health and mental health services to all children in public and public charter schools and child care centers throughout the District,” said Hanseul Kang, DC State Superintendent of Education. “This will allow families to gain meaningful connections to care in their communities and school and center-based staff to focus on high-quality instruction. When children are healthy, they are ready to learn. The District of Columbia is making strong investments that are informed by the overwhelming research that shows us that health and education are inseparable.”
The new School Health Services Program 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. Under the new child-centered program, school nurses and allied health professionals (certified nursing assistants or health care technicians) will provide every school with 40 hours of clinical coverage for students each week. In addition, through the new program, parents will receive support coordinating care and navigating community services in order to meet the preventive and chronic health needs of their children.
“I’m thrilled to see the new School Mental Health Program will for the first time expand critical behavioral health services to every school in the District,” said Juanita Price, CEO of Hillcrest Children & Family Center. “These expanded services will provide our communities with the behavioral health support they need to thrive.”
“The new School Health Services Program addresses the health needs of students both inside and outside of the school building by connecting children to quality health services in school and in the community,” said Shana Bartley, acting executive director of DC Action for Children. “We learned through the School Health Needs Assessment that a significant number of students face a variety of health concerns that can impact their ability to be present and learn in the classroom. This new child-centered and needs-based approach will improve student health outcomes by ensuring that children are connected to medical homes and have well-coordinated care.”
DOH and DBH worked closely and with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, DC Public Schools leadership, the DC Public Charter School Board, and interagency partners, advocates and community-based partners to craft the new holistic health frameworks.
“We appreciate the collaboration and forward thinking of our leaders in both school health and behavioral health,” said Scott Pearson, Executive Director of the DC Public Charter School Board. “These changes, when fully implemented, should expand coverage and ensure more students get the diagnosis and care they need.”