Milestones (2012-2016): School Behavioral Health Initiative


Year One (2012)

The SBHI workgroup developed 37 recommendations* aimed at the Texas Legislature and other elected bodies, state agencies, school districts, and community organizations. In order to develop the recommendations, the workgroup undertook a number of activities, including the:

  • Review of state and federal laws that govern the identification and treatment of students with behavioral health issues, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as relevant state regulations;

  • Creation of system "maps" of four school districts to determine their policies related to prevention, identification and treatment of mental health and/or substance use issues;

  • Examination of national evidence-based and promising school behavioral health programs. These included best practices related to prevention, identification, and intervention;

  • Completion of 32 individual interviews with key community members to obtain their views of how school behavioral health processes are currently working, and ways in which they can be improved;

  • Execution of site visits to locations that have been recognized statewide or nationally for innovative and best practice-based school mental health initiatives; and

  • Collection of data from the 20 main Harris County school districts related to special education categorization, racial patterns, and disciplinary placements.


Year Two (2013)

In the second year of the initiative, a number of positive strides were made in promoting and implementing the recommendations. During the 83rd Regular Legislative Session, Mental Health America of Greater Houston and its partners drafted and advocated for passage of legislation aimed at improving the capacity of schools to address behavioral health issues among students.

Of particular significance is that while on average a bill requires three sessions to be passed, two Mental Health America of Greater Houston-initiated bills containing three policy recommendations from the SBHI were introduced and passed in this session, a rare and remarkable achievement. The legislation includes requirements that:

  1. secondary teachers, principals, counselors and other personnel receive training in how to recognize and appropriately respond to signs of mental health issues among students;

  2. educator preparation programs include a training component on recognizing and responding to signs of mental health issues among students; and

  3. the Texas Education Agency, Department of State Health Services and Regional Education Service Centers develop a best practice-based list of mental health and substance use programs that schools can implement. In addition, appropriations addressing children's mental health increased by 59 percent, including $5 million to help train educators on how to recognize and appropriately respond to students exhibiting signs of mental illness.

Additionally, through $75,000 in grant funding, three area school districts began a partnership with Mental Health America of Greater Houston during the 2013-14 school year to pilot projects embodying three additional SBHI recommendations aimed at improving students' behavioral health outcomes.

Channelview Independent School District extended "navigation" and case management services to students and their families throughout all grade levels; Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District expanded the evidence-based Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports framework to all 25 of its campuses; and Spring Branch Independent School District developed transition service plans to help students returning from alternative schools and juvenile justice placements reintegrate back into the classroom setting.


Year Three (2014)

To encourage broader and deeper systems change, a SBHI Manager/Trainer was hired to expand the initiative to other Harris County school districts and increase the number of consensus recommendations implemented district or system-wide.  The following goals were achieved:

  1. Ten school districts implemented one or more of the consensus recommendations

  2. More than half the consensus recommendations (20) are implemented by one or more school districts and community organizations

  3. More than 500 teachers, administrators and students were educated or trained in a mental health program


Year Four (2015)

In Year 4, the School Behavioral Health Initiative (SBHI) expanded to 69 partners, including 15 school districts, 3 charter school districts and a combination 51 child-serving, education, and advocacy organizations; public entities and elected officials; parents and students, all dedicated to collectively impacting the implementation of concrete behavioral health measures in schools. 

To date, the following goals have been achieved:

  • In 2015-16, more than 603 Houston-area educators and youth-serving professionals have been trained in signs and symptoms of student behavioral health disorders and how to help students experiencing a mental health crisis.  Since 2014, more than 1,200 educators and others have been trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA), Youth Suicide Prevention, Children’s Mental Health, or the School Behavioral Health framework. 
  • The SBHI model and Spring Branch ISD Systems of Care (which was inspired by the SBHI and partially launched through a Mental Health America of Greater Houston pilot grant in 2013-2014) were featured in a workshop at the Advancing School Mental Health National Conference.
  • Based on the success of the 2013-2014 school-based pilot programs, Mental Health America of Greater Houston awarded two new grants to school districts for the 2015-2016 school year: 
    • Spring Branch ISD (SBISD) received funds to partner with the Monarch School to train and mentor designated SBISD elementary school personnel in evidence-based strategies for teaching children with serious mental health disorders.  
    • Goose Creek ISD (GCCISD) received funds to underwrite Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training for 150 school administrators, counselors, nurses, and alternative school faculty. The grant will also enhance YMHFA sustainability in the district through covering the costs of YMHFA facilitator training for aGCCISD professional, who, once trained, will be able to continue providing the course for teachers and other district personnel. 
  • A Learning Community was established to provide a “deep dive” for SBHI school districts to assess their progress in providing student behavioral health services, learn from local models, share best practices, and set and achieve quality goals for improving the scope and delivery of services in each district.  To date, 11 school districts/charter school districts are participating. 
  • In the 84th Texas Legislative Session, Mental Health America of Greater Houston partnered with colleagues across the state to advocate for the successful passage of the following 2 bills:
    • Senate Bill 133 expands the availability of Mental Health First Aid training to more school district employees, including educators, school resource officers, secretaries, school bus drivers, and cafeteria workers.
    • Senate Bill 674 amends the Education Code to mandate instruction in mental health, substance use, and youth suicide as a requirement for training in educator certification. 
  • In February 2016, Mental Health America of Greater Houston was awarded a three-year, $2 million grant from Houston Endowment to transform the School Behavioral Health Initiative into the Center for School Behavioral Health.  The Center will serve as a “living laboratory” for incubating innovative, cost-effective, and replicable best practices to improve the behavioral health of students by facilitating collective action; providing highly specialized professional development opportunities, technical assistance and community education; as well as conducting research, advocacy, and policy analysis. The Center will support the healthy psychological and cognitive development of children in the Greater Houston Region through services and programs promoting behavioral health, as well as the prevention, early identification, and treatment of behavioral health disorders. 



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