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Addressing Student Mental Health Concerns - Breakout Session, NIJ Virtual Conference on School Safety

On February 16-18, 2021, the National Institute of Justice hosted the Virtual Conference on School Safety: Bridging Research to Practice to Safeguard Our Schools. This video includes the following presentations:

Interconnecting PBIS and School Mental Health to Improve School Safety: A Randomized Trial, Mark Weist and Joni Splett

There is a pressing need for school safety efforts to move beyond physical hardening and reactive disciplinary strategies to advance prevention-oriented, comprehensive strategies that systematically address the underlying causes of common behavioral problems and infrequent incidents of violence. The Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) is a structure and process for promoting all students’ positive social, emotional, behavioral, and academic development while collaborating within schools to provide early access to a continuum of interconnected services when more supports are needed. In a randomized controlled trial funded by the National Institute of Justice, the ISF was implemented in elementary schools in two southern states and outcomes compared to schools implementing Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) with and without co-located, but not interconnected, mental health services. Preliminary results suggest promising outcomes with more students in ISF schools being proactively referred for Tier 2 and 3 interventions, more interventions provided, and decreased in-school suspensions and office discipline referrals, including evidence for reducing inequities. In addition, student and teacher surveys documented higher respect, engagement, and perceptions of safety among students in ISF schools, as well as lower ratings of student acting out behavior. These results demonstrate the promise of the ISF for improving student well-being and reducing threats to school safety.

Project SECURE: A Multi-tiered Approach to Supporting Students Exposed to Trauma, Carl Sumi

In 2016 SRI International received a grant from NIJ to implement Project SECURE. The overarching goal of Project SECURE is to evaluate the impact of a multi-tiered evidence-based framework to strengthen the resilience of students who are the most vulnerable to disciplinary exclusion, gang involvement, and trauma. In this presentation authors will provide a brief overview of Project SECURE, the two interventions being studied (Second Step and Bounce Back), the screening process, and preliminary results from the study.

School Safety and School-Based Mental Health Services in a Large Metropolitan School District, Anna Yaros and James Trudeau

Evidence-based secondary and tertiary mental health programs in schools have the potential to impact an entire school population by reducing aggression and victimization and improving overall climate for students and staff (Ballard et al., 2014). RTI International partnered with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) to study school safety using a school-randomized controlled trial (RCT) of three types of school-based mental health (SBMH) services and a quasi-experimental study that compared each of the three SBMH arms to a set of propensity score-matched, nonrandomized, non-SBMH comparison schools (n = 34 schools). Findings from staff surveys, student surveys, and administrative data did not show reliably improved school safety between treatment arms. Examination of implementation levels suggested that variability within treatment arm in levels of SBMH received by students predicted staff report, and to a lesser degree student report, of increased school safety. Specifically, the percentages of students seen for services by a school psychologist, school counselor, or SBMH therapist were related to increased feelings of safety and fewer unsafe incidents. A cost effectiveness analysis revealed that two levels of increased SBMH services were both more costly and more effective than SBMH treatment as usual. Implications for SBMH service provision will be discussed.

Promoting School Safety: A Comprehensive Emotional and Behavioral Health Model, Jill Bohnenkamp and Cindy Schaeffer

Schools across the nation are working to formulate comprehensive, evidence-based crisis response and prevention interventions to address student emotional and behavioral health crises. This presentation will describe the implementation of a multi-tiered comprehensive preventive intervention to promote school safety and research findings from a two-year randomized controlled trial of the intervention with 40 schools spanning elementary, middle and high school levels funded through the National Institute of Justice’s Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. The study evaluated the impact of the Emotional and Behavioral Health Crisis Response and Prevention (EBH-CRP) intervention on school safety outcomes, emotional and behavioral health service utilization and quality outcomes, educator knowledge and preparedness to address emotional and behavioral health concerns, and a cost-benefit analysis. Overall study findings will be presented including key findings highlighting that schools implementing the EBH-CRP model are minimizing the use of disciplinary procedures including suspensions, office discipline referrals and juvenile justice referrals as well as being more likely to respond with a therapeutic approach.

Date Published: February 16, 2021