Several years ago, I met with the leadership of the Belton School District to discuss what some of the most difficult challenges the students of the Belton School District faced. At the top of the list was access to quality mental health services.
Approximately 75 students (1.5 percent of the student population) each year were placed in inpatient psychiatric services. School personnel discussed how many of these students had been referred to outside resources but, for one reason or another, were unable to remain engaged in treatment. As a result of seeing this need, the idea of the district providing school-based mental health services was born.
After much work, the Appropriate Clinical Care Engaged in a School Setting (ACCESS) program was developed. During the 2010–2011 school year, the district received its first grant from the Health Forward Foundation. Through a partnership with Pathways, the district implemented the program and immediately saw a huge influx of interest and quickly developed a waiting list for services. As of the 2014–2015 school year, the program has five therapists, many of whom still have waiting lists.
Each year since the inception of the program, the number of students placed in inpatient psychiatric care has been reduced to between 35 and 39. In addition, most students have shown an increase in their ability to function in a successful manner both at home and at school.
Parents and teachers alike have embraced the program, and the integration of mental health services within the school setting has helped remove some of the social stigma associated with receiving mental health services. Parents have shared that, because of work, lack of transportation or other responsibilities, they are unable to ensure their children receive this important service, but with the integration of services within the school day, their children are now able to get the help they need.
Therapists not only provide individual therapy to students but show teachers skills that help students be more successful in the classroom.
Therapists are often included in individual educational plans developed for the children they treat and are able to help set goals for students. This integrated approach provides vital consistency for the students with all of the adults involved in their daily lives working together to help the students be successful.
Overall, the ACCESS program has been a great success as it meets students right where they are and provides them hope for the future.
This blog post is part of A Healthy 10.