School Mental Health Services for the 21st Century: Lessons from the District of Columbia School Mental Health Program

This report is based on a 16-month examination of school-connected mental health programs
here in the District of Columbia and in cities, counties and states around the nation. In the course
of the study, the authors conducted an in-depth examination of school mental health programs
in DC, reviewed relevant literature, and interviewed 100 local and national experts in children’s
mental health and school mental health.

Policymakers, program directors, educators and mental health professionals increasingly view
school-connected mental health as essential to effective schools and well-functioning mental
health systems of care. Last year this perspective was evident in the District of Columbia when
the Interagency Collaboration and Services Integration Commission (ICSIC) included school
mental health as part of the District of Columbia Public Education Reform Amendment Act
of 2007.

The overarching goal of this report is to document the critical components of effective school
mental health programs utilizing the best current thinking and practice so that programs
developed with this guidance in mind can withstand the political, economic, and social pressures
that frequently erode best-practice models. To this end, the report recommends a number
of roles, functions, and activities for the DC Department of Mental Health within five areas:
organizational management, program development and evidence-based practices, training and
professional development, financing, and program evaluation and outcomes research.