Mental health services in schools include a broad range of services, settings, and strategies. Psychological and mental health services in schools apply learning theory for individuals and groups to improve instruction and coordinate and evaluate plans to meet unique individual needs for learning or behavior problems. School psychologists also use research to design prevention and intervention programs, and provide crisis intervention, suicide prevention, and other mental health strategies as part of a student support services team. Mental health services that are provided in schools may include academic counseling, brief interventions to address behavior problems, assessments and referrals to other systems. Providing mental health services in a school based setting helps address barriers to learning and provide supports so that all students can achieve in school and ultimately in life. Schools are also places where prevention and early intervention activities can occur in a non-stigmatizing environment.
The Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), also known as Proposition 63, was enacted by voters in November 2004. The intent of this law is to transform the mental health system in California, from a fail first system to a sweeping transformation of funding and delivery of mental health services. Among the key principles that are embedded in the MHSA are increased involvement of stakeholders in the design of the new system, and an emphasis on services and strategies that maximize successful outcomes.
The MHSA provides a new opportunity for the fields of education and mental health to work together to assist California’s children and youth in achieving their educational and personal goals. Data show that mental health issues can lead to school failure and dropping out as early as middle school. Students who are exposed to violence have higher suspension and expulsion rates and lower school attendance and grades.
The majority of funds available through the MHSA are for local assistance efforts, administered through the county mental health agency. Local planning efforts for the MHSA’s Prevention and Early Intervention component began in August 2007. For more information about how to become involved in local mental health planning efforts, contact the MHSA Coordinator in your county.