Collaboration and coordination among stakeholders in the education and mental health field are necessary to increase student mental health. In order for efforts to be sustainable, there needs to be collaboration and buy-in at every level of leadership. The leadership between education and mental health entities need to coordinate efforts and work together from the State leadership, to the county and district leadership, to the school site and local mental health providers.
This coordination is challenging work for many reasons as leadership, staff, and providers can often have different points of view, different priorities and even the language used can be different. This makes commitment to working together and across the systems so important and requires patience, flexibility and creativity.
In efforts to support student mental health, collaboration between student supports, including partner agencies, and school administration and staff is vital. Included in this section are resources to support efforts of coordination at different levels of leadership.
Building a team to coordinate supports and referrals is a significant component of successful school mental health partnerships. Coordination teams come in many different shapes, sizes, and names. One example of how to coordinate and work together is called Coordination of Services Team (COST) (see guide and resources included). There are also multiple “layers” of coordination to consider: at the school site level responding directly to student needs to regional or county levels where systemic issues and collective responses can be addressed and discussed.
Regardless of what you call the coordination team(s), there are several important components: Based on your needs assessment, an overall understanding of the entire continuum of services available in the system of care. It is important that various coordination teams, to the best of their ability, understand who provides what services in the system of care, how students are referred to services, and eligibility determinations. A universal referral form that allows students, parents, and all staff to refer students when there is indication support could be beneficial. Examples of COST referral forms are also included. The referral form ensures that students have access to available services.
Regular meetings among support staff and school staff to discuss student referrals and create plans of support at the school site level. Regular meetings ensure that staff have the opportunity to share data (while ensuring confidentiality) and report back on student outcomes, reflect on trends and needs that are coming up across the school and ways to increase school wide efforts. For example, a high number of referrals for freshman girls experiencing anxiety during the first six months of school could lead to creating support groups and curriculum implemented across a class that all freshmen are taking.
Tracking student data and outcomes of referrals and services ensures that the needs of the students are being met as well as identifying early warning indicators that will help provide early intervention for often overlooked students. Some school sites have been able to implement the COST referral form and services to students’ educational accounts through the school so that teachers and all staff can access real time updates on what is working to help the student.
Screening students school wide for mental health risks enables students to access early intervention and allows schools to notice trends and create supports tailored to their communities. Coordination between mental health agencies and the school personnel is required for quality and effective screening and planning for meeting students’ needs.
One of the biggest challenges in coordinating student mental health programs and services arises around issues of confidentiality, protected health and student information, and data sharing. Simply put, there are federal and state laws that protect student and patient information. We have included a comprehensive guide to help partners understand these laws and identify practices to facilitate coordination and protect student information.
An interactive framework and tool for analyzing collaborative efforts across fields and can help lay the foundation for shared understanding and common goals across all partners. (Prevention Institute)
A logic model informed by implementation science to promote and support education systems to create meaningful and impactful organizational and systems change to achieve better outcomes for students. (National Implementation Research Network)
A tool to support your team’s review of past and current strategies to determine what has been successful and what more is needed to achieve desired outcomes. (National Implementation Research Network)
Designed to increase dialogue and foster relationships between schools, families and community mental health resources and partners. (Now Is The Time- TA Center)
A tool to support people and organizations in starting and improving existing collaborations. (National Network for Collaboration)
List of common acronyms to support cross communication between education and mental health agencies.
A comprehensive guide, with editable resources, that provides an overview and road map for schools and partners interested in launching or improving COST or similar service coordination teams. (Alameda County Center for Healthy Schools and Communities)
(Alameda County Center for Healthy Schools and Communities)
(Hayward Unified School District)
(Oakland Unified School District)
(Zip file of referral and example tracking student outcomes files from Alameda County Center for Healthy Schools and Communities)
A tool with examples of how to prepare for and conduct school wide screenings for behavioral health risk to allow for targeted early intervention. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
A comprehensive resource on determining a plan for school wide screenings for behavioral health risk. (National Center for School Mental Health Guide)
An online guide that provides an overview of the laws that relate to sharing student/patient information (HIPAA, FERPA and California State Law), as well as best practices and resource materials for schools and health providers. (California School-Based Health Alliance)
A printable guide, similar to the web resource above, that helps navigate the complex interactions of HIPAA and FERPA in school health programs including SBHCs, school-based mental health programs, school nursing services, and other types of health services delivered on school campuses. (National Center for Youth Law)