One of Ohio’s top priorities is to support the health and well-being of students in the state. Now more than ever, students and staff need to develop skills to build resiliency to face life stressors, particularly those created during the pandemic. Whether instruction is remote, in-person, or a hybrid approach, schools must consider how to best support the behavioral health needs of students and staff while ensuring their physical health and safety. Schools and districts may already partner with behavioral health providers to support students’ social and emotional well-being along a continuum. Districts may implement or continue to utilize their existing multi-tiered system of behavioral health supports to meet the needs not only of students, but staff as well.
Over the past year, students have experienced stressors that may have a lasting impact on them academically, socially, and emotionally. These experiences are not limited to students but also to staff who serve students. It is imperative that districts are prepared to provide support face-to-face or virtually during the 2020-21 academic year and beyond. In an effort to promote a positive school climate, stakeholders must be intentional about behavioral health services that will be provided to students, staff, and families. Quite often in districts, there are various stakeholders who can support students socially and emotionally. In an effort for more collaboration between behavioral health providers and other resources, developing a tiered system of behavioral health support can be beneficial to the students. In this approach, districts should consider how they will also support staff who work with students and families. Below are strategies within a three-tiered approach to consider when creating behavioral health services in schools to promote a positive school climate for students and staff.
- Promote universal strategies to support all students and adults who serve them at a tier one level. In this tier, there is a level of support in which all students have access to behavioral health services that promote social and emotional well-being in a school setting.
- Implement social and emotional curricula for all students that are preventive in nature and that supports academic achievement by teaching self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, relationship and problem-solving skills.
- Use a strengths-based approach that looks at the positive attributes of the students and builds upon those attributes to provide services.
- Integrate trauma-informed classroom methods into the class setting.
- Make parents aware of social, emotional, and behavioral health services provided within the academic setting. Also, create a list of available community resources that can be disseminated.
- Promote the importance of self-care for the adults who serve the students in the academic setting.
- Create more targeted, short-term interventions for students who may need additional support.
- Develop policies and procedures for early identification and referral which may include screenings, student identification criteria, referral processes, and team structures such as student assistance programs or response to intervention.
- Provide professional development to help staff recognize early signs of social, emotional and behavioral health needs and challenges.
- Consult with other stakeholders about behavior management strategies in the classroom for teachers and staff.
- Create small group interventions to support students based on similar risk factors or needs.
- Implement evidence-based tier II strategies focused on relationship building and mentoring such Check In/Check Out, or Check and Connect,
- Provide short-term individual counseling by a behavioral health professional (eg. school counselor, school social worker, or clinical mental health provider).
- Pursue additional professional development in areas where more resources are needed.
- Establish individualized behavioral health supports for students demonstrating behaviors that impact daily functioning and who are not responding to the other resources.
- Develop policies and procedures for identification and referral which may include screenings, student identification criteria, referral processes, and team structures such as student assistance programs or response to intervention.
- Assess student needs and create an individualized intervention plan.
- Partner with community behavioral health providers or other agencies to offer mental health counseling services and additional support.
- Use a wrap-around approach for students to ensure that students and families are supported in the home, school, and community and that their voices are heard.
- Pursue additional support and professional development in relevant areas.
- ASCA and NASP School Reentry Considerations
- Mental Health in Schools for Educators
- National Center for School Mental Health
- Ohio Department of Education Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports
- Ohio Department of Education Trauma-Informed Schools
- Project AWARE Ohio Statewide Resources
- Secondary Traumatic Stress and Self-Care Packet