New ASTHO report outlines 10 strategies to improve behavioral health in schools

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ARLINGTON, Va., May 2, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — In light of rising rates of teen depression and anxiety United States, today the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) released a new report outlining 10 high-level strategies to improve behavioral health in schools. According to recent CDC data, among adolescents ages 12 to 17, 15% have had a major depressive episode, 37% have had persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, 19% have seriously considered attempting suicide, and 16% have made a suicide plan.

“Rates of anxiety and depression among young people have increased at an alarming rate,” says ASTHO CEO Michael Fraser. “The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified these trends as many students have been isolated from friends, teachers, and mentors for months. America’s youth need support, and there’s no better place to only do it in our schools.”

ASTHO, in partnership with CDC’s Healthy Schools Directorate, convened a School Behavioral Health Advisory Committee to identify policy gaps and strategies for delivering behavioral health services in schools. This advisory committee has identified 10 strategies that school leaders can implement to improve the mental health of their students.

The 10 strategies include:

  1. Collaborate with the Department of Education on a comprehensive mental health framework to guide student wellbeing, such as the Tiered Support System Framework
  2. Use shared and inclusive language when communicating work around behavioral health in school.
  3. Use a strengths-based approach when collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data highlighting the role of student connectedness and resilience.
  4. Harmonize data sources across cross-sectoral agencies to get a complete picture of youth behavioral health.
  5. Build a cross-sector team with representation across all relevant sectors and levels of implementation.
  6. Improve the capacity of the traditional and non-traditional school workforce to address behavioral health.
  7. Expand Medicaid reimbursement in school settings, removing state restrictions on school health services, to align with national guidelines reversing free care.
  8. Expand the provision of school telehealth services.
  9. Leverage recent federal school health funding to support school behavioral health services.
  10. Braid/diaper funding to support a shared approach to risks and protective factors for youth behavioral health.

“Young people are suffering more than ever as we continue to see the impact of the pandemic on their development and well-being,” said Sharon HooverPh.D., Professor in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University of Maryland School of Medicine and co-director with the National Center for School Mental Health. “To promote the mental health of all children and adolescents, and to recognize and treat mental health issues early and effectively, state behavioral health officials must support young people where they are. Schools are an essential place to promote the well-being of all young people and to carry out early identification and treatment of people struggling with mental health problems.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened existing inequalities and increased exposure to various risk factors that can negatively impact the health and education of young people. However, changes in state and federal policies before and during the pandemic have created opportunities to improve health equity and increase young people’s access to behavioral health services. States can leverage cross-sector collaboration between education, Medicaid, health agencies, and community partners to address the behavioral health needs of young people.

View the full report here: Improving Youth Behavioral Health Through School-Based Strategies.

ASTHO is the national non-profit organization representing the public health agencies of United StatesU.S. Territories and Freely Associated States, and washington d.c., as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the primary health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and ensuring excellence in public health practice.

SOURCE Association of State and Territory Health Officials

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