Brevard Public Schools Launches Assistance Plan to Help Support Students’ Mental Health Needs

By  //  August 16, 2018

BPS hired 16 social workers, four psychologists and five instructional assistants

The following graphic provides a summary of BPS’ guiding principles and supports related to mental health. (BPS image)

BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA — To meet students’ mental health needs in addition to new state requirements, Brevard Public Schools created a comprehensive Mental Health Assistance Plan and hired 16 school social workers, four school psychologists and five instructional assistants.

The expanded supports and procedures provide direct access to a continuum of mental health supports for students and families, and promotes a positive school climate.

The plan address requirements set by Senate Bill 7026, a bill focused on school security and student mental health in Florida, and created following the February 2018 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High in Broward County. BPS received a mental health assistance allocation of $1.7 million from the state to meet the mandates set by the bill.

The district’s plan and state allocation come at a critical time as many of today’s students are affected by the mental health crisis and the stigmas associated with mental health challenges. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), American Psychological Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness:

  •  1 in 5 children ages 13-18 have or will have a serious mental illness
  •  11 percent of youth have a mood disorder
  •  10 percent of youth have a behavior or conduct disorder
  •  8 percent of youth have an anxiety disorder

The district is using the allocation to expand the existing school-based mental health care and access to mental health services for students. BPS’ efforts include increasing support and mental health staff, providing district-wide mental health training and creating mental health referral procedures.

Melissa Catechis, director of Student Support Services, said: “Safe, caring and well-managed learning environments are critical components of promoting positive mental health growth.

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This is done by promoting a positive school culture and climate. A positive school climate is driven by staff and adults creating, implementing, modeling and reinforcing the positive attitudes, beliefs and values of their school.”

School social workers may conduct mental health interventions including individual, group and family counseling services for students and home visits to gather information.

They also coordinate services with outside providers for students with one or more mental health or comorbid substance abuse diagnoses, and students at risk of such diagnoses.

School psychologists provide mental health assessments, intervention, treatment, recovery services and referrals for outside diagnosis.

The additional instructional assistants support elementary certified school counselors. Instructional assistants help with non-counseling duties such as data collection, record keeping and classroom support.

Another component of the plan is Youth Mental Health First Aid training for school staff. The training is designed to prepare staff to help an adolescent experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge, or is in crisis.

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Training topics include anxiety, depression, substance use and abuse, disorders which may involve psychosis, disruptive behavior disorders and eating disorders.

Furthermore, a BPS mental-health workgroup standardized the mental-health provider referral process and is establishing data-collection procedures to report statistics to the state.

The new four-step referral pathway begins with recognition of a possible mental health concern and can lead to interventions and potential referrals to mental healthcare providers.