Student Well-Being

‘Systems of Care’ Found to Benefit Troubled Youths

By Christina A. Samuels — June 03, 2008 1 min read

Teenagers involved in “systems of care”—coordinated networks of providers and schools that work to get services to adolescents with mental-health issues—have fewer disciplinary problems, and attend school more regularly within a year and a half of getting services, a government report says.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, oversees a federal grant program to expand the “systems of care” service-delivery model nationwide.

As part of an effort last month to promote awareness of children’s mental-health problems, the agency examined the outcomes of youths ages 14 to 18 involved in such programs.

Schools tend to be the most common avenue used to refer teenagers to mental-health services. Within 18 months of students’ involvement in a systems-of-care model, suspension and expulsion rates dropped from about 52 percent to 29 percent, the study found.

Overall, 74 percent of youths who entered systems-of care-services attended school regularly. Six months after receiving care, the percentage attending regularly rose to 81 percent, the report says.

Schools are a critical element of a systems-of-care service model, said Gary M. Blau, the chief of the child, adolescent, and family services branch of SAMHSA. But the goal of such programs is not to place extra work on school personnel, he said, but to let them know where they can turn if they have a student with severe behavioral problems.

“We try to demonstrate that what matters to the school also matters to us,” Mr. Blau said.

Several school districts have applied for grants to offer the program to youths in their communities because the districts see the importance of such work, he said.

The Bush administration is recommending an increase of almost 12 percent in grant money to fund systems-of-care programs in the president’s fiscal 2009 budget, from $102 million to $114 million.

“Educators are really looking to coordinate with their community providers,” Mr. Blau said.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 04, 2008 edition of Education Week

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