In order to better support the mental health needs of its students, Chicago Public Schools says it’s planning to expand a pilot program with Lurie Children’s Hospital into hundreds more schools around the city.
CPS and Lurie announced Thursday they’ll ensure every district-run school can participate in the program, which helps identify and address students in need of mental health support.
“We are immensely fortunate to expand this proven mental health model with a world-class children’s hospital,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said in a statement. “We know that this collaborative work with Lurie Children’s Hospital will help our students heal so they can get back on a path to learn and thrive.”
Through this program, behavioral health teams at individual schools work to provide early identification of students with mental health needs, and connect those students with evidence-based interventions to help address issues such as anxiety, depression, substance use, trauma-related symptoms, peer problems and attentional problems — issues that may have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on the availability of resources and the severity of a student’s needs, the teams will determine whether services are provided in the school, the community, or a combination of the two. The teams also monitor student progress and adjust their supports as necessary.
“We know that up to 50 percent of adolescents will experience a mental health concern, but only about 20 percent of these youth get care from a specialized mental health provider — and those that do may only receive that care after their symptoms have reached a crisis point,” Dr. Tali Raviv, a psychologist and associate professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a statement.
The behavioral health teams regularly meet with school-based mental health professionals as well as administrators, teachers, nurses and community partners with a goal of building trust and integration of social-emotional skill development.
This program is already being piloted in around 200 CPS schools. The district will begin expanding behavioral health teams into more schools this August, with a goal of reaching all 515 district-run schools by the 2023-24 school year.
While a final budget for the full expansion is still in progress, CPS said it will use federal COVID-19 relief dollars, among other funds, to support that program growth in the 2023 fiscal year.
“We are excited to continue working with CPS to establish the Behavioral Health Team model in many more schools,” Raviv said, “so that every child who needs help can be identified as early as possible and connected to appropriate supports.”