These prevention and intervention services support the mental, behavioral, social, and emotional health of students. Services include a broad range of assessments, counseling and consultation, and referrals to school and community support services. Many schools organize these supports using a tiered framework, like the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS). Schools are uniquely positioned to help support the mental and behavioral needs of students by removing many of the barriers families often experience in the community, like transportation, cost, time and stigma related to accessing mental health supports. School-based services can also play an important role in connecting and referring families to more intensive supports in the community.

 Effective Practices

  • Determine the necessary staffing model that will support the needs of the school community. This may include some combination of school-employed mental health professionals (like school social workers, counselors and psychologists), school-based health center providers, and/or contracted providers in partnership with community mental health agencies, health systems, or local government.

  • Partner with school climate team, school-based mental health professionals and others to determine how students will be identified for supports.

  • Involve service providers and school mental health staff in school-wide prevention efforts, suicide and mental health awareness education. For example, have school mental health providers speak to health education classes or take a tour of the school-based health center.


  • School Mental Health Referral Pathways (SMHRP) Toolkit was funded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to help state and local education agencies and their partners develop effective systems to refer youth to mental health service providers and related supports. It provides best-practice guidance and practical tools and strategies to improve coordination and collaboration both within schools and between schools and other youth-serving agencies.

  • National Center for School Mental Health website provides a wealth of resources related to building school mental health teams, screening and assessments, services supports and implementation, data, outcomes and sustainability.

  • National Center for School Mental Health SHAPE System. The School Health Assessment and Performance Evaluation System (SHAPE) is a free web-based portal designed specifically for school and district teams to assess and enhance their school mental health services.

  • National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) website provides a number of resources around the role of a school psychologist in supporting mental health, as well as program and policy/system practices.

  • Colorado Department of Education guidance on their Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework. 

  • Guidance for Trauma Screening in Schools. Document that outlines both the potential benefits and careful considerations of conducting universal screening for experiences of trauma in a school.


Project Cal-Well

Project Cal-Well, a five-year funded initiative in California sought to increase awareness of and improve mental health and wellness of the state’s K-12 population. Project Cal-Well schools hired a variety of mental health professionals to support school-based behavioral health services. For example, ABC Unified School District placed masters-level School Social Workers and mental health professionals at all 29 school sites for five days per week. Local Control Funding Formula and supplemental grant sources were used to hire district employees and contract with community mental health agencies. Masters of Social Work (MSW)/Pupil Personnel Services Credential Interns and Primary Intervention Program aides provided socio-emotional learning and counseling.

For more information: contact Kendall Fujioka, Coordinator of Pupil Support Services & Attendance,