Nothing in this section should be interpreted as legal advice for partners and agencies. The resources and information presented here are meant to highlight the legal concerns that are often raised in creating comprehensive school mental health services. Partners are strongly encouraged to engage their own legal counsels early on in the planning and implementation processes.
Contracts and MOUs will help create a structure and legal document to address many of the complex legal challenges to consider in creating these partnerships and services for students.
Some areas to address and consider:
- Develop uniform policies and procedures for referring students to services. How will they enter services? How will they exit? What forms will be used for entrance? What process will be used for exit?
- Ensure data and information sharing within the LEA(s) and with third party providers (this includes both community-based agencies and county behavioral health departments) is understood and in compliance with federal and state law. This includes:
- Determination whether services are governed by HIPAA or FERPA
- What information can and will be shared with who?
- Release of information forms under HIPAA or FERPA
- Consent to treatment forms under HIPAA or FERPA
- Discuss issues associated with treatment of minors (and minor consent for services) and develop clear protocols and procedures for such treatment.
- Train all staff in the continuum of care, including obligations and entitlements under the IDEA, ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Child Find, and Medi-Cal EPSDT so children are referred for entitlements that they may qualify for. How will special education interface with the rest of the system to ensure eligibility and entitlements are provided and protected?
Relatedly, once a student is referred to services, consider issues around access to those services. What happens if a coordination team cannot come to consensus on the responsible agency for services? How are roles between partners defined and how is the obligation to provide services determined between partners and responsible agencies?
A template illustrating the components of an MOU that school-community partnerships may include. You will also need to consider relevant state law in any contract development in California. (National Center for School Mental Health)
Minor consent laws in California allow young people aged 12 and over to consent to certain services without parent or guardian involvement, including some mental health services. This webpage provides an overview of the laws and resources for school-based health providers. (California School-Based Health Alliance)
A list of commonly overlooked MOU terms and protocols for school-based mental health partnerships. (Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo)
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 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)