During community conversations led by Iowa West Foundation in 2012-13, area superintendents noted that children’s mental health was the top concern in schools. Increasingly, children’s mental health is cited as a primary concern of educators nationwide. Researchers and practitioners have warned that the failure to address mental health will have long-term negative repercussions on both children and the community. Identifying mental health challenges and providing appropriate treatment can help ensure that children lead healthy, productive lives.
As a direct result of the Foundation’s community conversations, the Iowa West Foundation Board established children’s mental health as a strategic priority. During the 2013-14 school year, representatives from Iowa West Foundation, Lewis Central, and Heartland Family Service discussed how they could work together more closely to address the growing mental health needs of its student population. With one provider in place, Heartland Family Service could help Lewis Central Schools and IWF learn what combination of behavioral and mental health services are necessary, beneficial and scalable to address the mental health needs of students.
About School-Based Mental Health
The school-based pilot program consists of four significant parts:
- Therapeutic services for K-12 students
- Teacher training to help identify and refer mental and behavioral health issues
- A caseworker to work with children and families
- Universal assessment of middle school students (per their parents’ permission) to identify issues more quickly
By sensitizing teachers and administrators to mental health issues, while increasing access to diagnosis and care, students are expected to exhibit lower rates of absenteeism, perform better academically, and engage better with their schools. The initial findings show that those who elected to receive treatment showed a 20 percent increase in attendance and a 42 percent drop in problem behaviors.
Iowa Behavioral Health Director