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January 28, 2014
On January 8, 2014, Booz Allen, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, Georgia State University School of Public Health, and the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine hosted a summit at the Atlanta-based Carter Center. The event, “Strengthening Communities through Collaboration: Providing School Based Behavioral Health Services,” provided state leaders with an opportunity to address behavioral health issues among school-aged children, and the role that school-based health centers (SBHCs) can play in promoting quality of life and wellness, including psychological health.
As we have seen in so many news stories, childhood mental health is an important issue in the U.S. I was surprised and somewhat disheartened to learn that in Georgia alone, roughly 500,000 school age children experience behavioral health problems, and only half of adults and one-third of children receive treatment for mental disorders. What does this mean for the rest of our nation?
School-based health centers are an important component of care. Co-located in schools -- where students spend much of their day – they serve as safety-net facilities to many of the country’s most vulnerable populations. In fact, we learned, these centers provide necessary health care to more than 2 million students in the form of primary care, behavioral health, optometry and dental health services. Adolescents with access to SBHCs are more likely to make mental health or substance abuse visits, have access to after-hours (emergent or urgent) care during emergencies, and make more preventive medical visits per year. SBHCs have helped significantly reduce adolescent hospitalizations and emergency room visits, and contributed to increased classroom attendance.
During the summit, leaders from state government, advocacy groups, academia, healthcare provider organizations, businesses, and non-profit organizations tackled mental health within Fulton County Schools, which has more than 95,000 enrolled students.
We discussed expansion of SBHCs into two schools – Milton High School and Tri-Cities High School -- and identified policy changes that could enable better mental health support and academic success in the county as well as within the State of Georgia.
It’s time we take responsibility for the mental health of our children. If we can help improve mental health issues in children between birth and five years, fewer disorders would result in adults.
Booz Allen will release a post-summit report in February that captures central ideas and actionable steps forward to expand SHBCs. Stay tuned.