Now is the time! Expanded roles for child and adolescent psychiatrists in school-based mental health


Erika Ryst

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Objectives: The field of school-based mental health offers unique and timely opportunities for child psychiatrists to partner with schools in meeting the mental health needs of youth. Increasingly, federal agencies, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), are launching new national initiatives to promote mental health prevention and services in schools. For example, after the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting in 2012, President Obama released his “Now is the Time” presidential plan. Through this initiative, SAMHSA allocated $40 million for the development of school district demonstration projects in 20 states. This grant program, “Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education)” aims to develop innovative strategies within schools to increase mental health awareness, to identify youth mental health problems early, and to connect youth to school-based and community-based mental health services. Methods: Using two specific examples, this Honors Presentation will illustrate opportunities for child psychiatrists in school-based mental health programs. First, Nevada Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness And Resilience in Education) will be described, with a particular focus on the role of one child psychiatrist’s involvement in the project. Second, a new project jointly sponsored by AACAP’s School Psychiatry Committee and the AAP Council on School Health will be introduced. This Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) School-Based Mental Health Clinic will be a telementoring project and offer professional development opportunities to school-based mental health providers. Through the ECHO videoconferencing modality, child psychiatrists can engage in a nontraditional professional activity that disseminates the child psychiatrist’s expertise and increases the capacity of the mental health workforce. Results: Just as integrated healthcare models expand the role of child psychiatrists within pediatric care, school-based mental health programs allow child psychiatrists to forge new roles in areas such as prevention, public policy, system change, and workforce development. Special competencies are required for these new opportunities and will be discussed. Conclusions: The field of school-based mental health represents an area of opportunity for child psychiatrists as schools across the country begin to implement programs aimed at improving mental health.