Community Involvement includes all of the ways that local government, university, businesses, health care organizations, clinics and providers, non-profit organizations, faith communities, culturally specific groups and others partner with a school to support the health and well-being of students and staff.

Community involvement can come in a variety of forms, with partnerships as unique as the communities from which they come. For example, a school or district might partner with a community mental health provider to deliver counseling services in schools. Or, a community-based organization may provide after-school programming for students or serve as a site for a service learning project. Local mental health agencies, community organizations or other experts may advise on school policy or programs related to mental health promotion or suicide prevention or supplement health education and awareness activities. 

Effective Practices

  • Leverage already established mechanisms for involving the community like Site Council, District/School Wellness Councils, or school improvement planning groups.

  • Create a strong partnership with community mental health providers. Whether they are contracted to provide school-based mental health services or serve as a referral in the community, it is important to ensure:

    • Each partner is clear on their roles and responsibilities. An established Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is a good way to clarify how the school/district and community organization will work together to support the mental health of students/staff.

    • There is a well-established and defined process of communication between school personnel, community mental health providers, and parents/guardians.

    • There are clear processes and documentation for collecting consent as well as releases of information so critical information can be shared and kept confidential.

    • Data are being consistently tracked to identify gaps or additional needs.



Utilizing Community Partners to Screen Students for Mental Health and Substance Use

This past summer, Miamisburg City Schools entered into a partnership with Samaritan Behavioral Health to implement a comprehensive screening program for mental health and substance use disorders. The program is SBIRT which stands for Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment. It was our intention to complete this screening process with all of our high school students and if time allowed our middle school students as well. In the end, the hope is that Samaritan will provide us with aggregate data based on our program results and students who need assistance will be identified and referred.

At the beginning of the school year, parents were informed about the program through multiple avenues. They were then given the option of opting out if they did not feel it was something they wanted their child to experience. Relatively few parents opted out and those who called quickly saw the value in what we were doing. Samaritan Behavioral Health then assigned a licensed social worker to our district. We provided a him a place to conduct the screenings and a list of the students whose parents allowed them to participate. The social worker called each student down to his office and worked through the screen in a one on one setting. If any red flags were noted, the social worker was able to do a brief intervention and determine next steps. Students were either released with no follow up, called back for a follow up visit, or referred to treatment. The social worker was responsible for helping the family members make a connect to outside services if necessary.

We are happy to say at this point in the year, all of our high school students have been screened and we are now working through our middle school students This has been a very valuable partnership and we feel very beneficial to our students and our families. We are hoping that the data we receive will help guide us in designing needed supports and interventions for the future. We did learn a few immediate lessons through the process. First, it was someone frustrating for the staff to know that some students were being referred but due to privacy we were not provided this information. The staff felt that it would have been helpful to know. Second, some students did see it as a great opportunity to get out of class so we had to work through some of that. I believe there are more lessons to learn but feel that we won't know that until the year is up and we receive the data.

For more information: contact Kathleen Lucas, Director of Student Services, Miamisburg City Schools, Ohio,

Connecting More Students to Mental Health Services: San Diego Unified School District’s Mental Health Resource Center (MHRC)

The Mental Health Resource Center department at SDUSD has been in existence for 18 years (since 2001) and began early on as a Safe Schools/Healthy Students Grant. “Over the years, it became clear that there was a need for increased mental health services among our students and families. However, accessing mental health services is tied to insurance coverage, which becomes a barrier. Accessibility to services is an additional barrier that families experience. These include challenges with transportation, parents not being able to take time away from work, etc”. MHRC department sponsors MOU’s with multiple outside community based mental health agencies so that the services can be more readily accessible for Medi-Cal eligible students/families (more information below).

The Mental Health Resource Center has become the hub for services to students across several areas including:

  • Mental Health Related Services (MHRS) program: Students receiving Special Education services. Prior to the passage of AB114, counties were responsible for providing services for IEPs, but that now lies with the District. SDUSD employs their own mental health clinicians to provide educationally related mental health services and has 43 clinicians assigned to approximately 180 comprehensive schools across the district. 

  • MHRS services are also provided at three separate school locations for students who require more intensive mental health services in order to access their education; Riley School (K-8), New Dawn School (9-12) and Marcy High School (9-12). These programs serve students eligible for Special Education services who exhibit pervasive social, emotional and/or behavioral characteristics/symptoms that adversely impact educational benefit over a significant period of time. In total, all three programs have 4 Lead Clinicians, 4 Supervising Rehabilitation Specialists, 16 Mental Health Clinicians and 44 Rehabilitation Specialists. The 3 separate school programs are all co-funded by County of San Diego Behavioral contracts and SDUSD Special Education.

  • Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) programs: 2 County of San Diego Behavioral Health Services contracts for Pre K-3rd grade General Education students utilizing Incredible Years curriculum. This program provides social-emotional evidenced based prevention and intervention services at school sites, within classrooms, and small group settings, parent training groups and consultations. Over the course of a 5-year period, 67 total schools will be served.

  • Grant from Price Philanthropies to provide school based outpatient mental health services to schools in the City Heights area of San Diego (one elementary school, two middle schools and one high school). MHRC Lead clinician oversees the clinical supervision of SDSU Social Work Interns providing services in this collaborative project.

  • Teen Recovery Centers: MHRC sponsors 3 MOU’s with County Behavioral Health services to provide substance use/abuse treatment services on 9 high school sites. MHRC clinician funded by General Education serves as district liaison between SDUSD schools and contracted agencies.

  • ALBA Community Day School: One MHRC clinician funded by General Education to provide outpatient services to include individual, family and group therapy; case management, screening and assessment. 

  • MHRC has 11 certified Youth Mental Health First Aid trainers and provides district staff and parents with this training multiple times per year.

  • Medicaid (Medi-Cal) eligible students through contracts with County of San Diego Behavioral Health Services. MHRC sponsors nine MOU’s with community based “SchooLink” providers that offer mental services on approximately 115 campuses across the district (see below). In addition, MHRC holds one of these outpatient contracts (San Diego Outpatient Program) and provides services currently at 15 of these schools.

*SchoolLink is a partnership between the County of San Diego Behavioral Health services and local school districts to provide services at school sites. There is an online tool that is module based, and shares successful strategies for linking students to behavioral health services and provides resources to help school staff and providers better understand:

  • Available services

  • Referral processes

  • School staff/provider roles and responsibilities

  • Best practices for outreach and communication

There are also a number of resources such as a standardized referral form, sample meeting agendas and more. The intention is to review the SchoolLink modules and resources annually and ensure there are staff at each school who can help follow up on referrals and be the point of connection.  

For more information: contact Janelle Chiu, LMFT Supervising Licensed Mental Health Clinician, San Diego Unified School District

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