Addressing COVID-related Impacts on the Mental Health of School Children
Special Projects Fund
December 13, 2021
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, depression and anxiety among young people was already at a two-decade high, with an estimated 20% of children and adolescents suffering from a diagnosable behavioral health disorder.
With the onset of the pandemic, children faced school shutdowns, sudden shifts to remote learning, educational loss, social isolation, fear, and trauma related to the loss of a parent or primary caregiver. School-based health centers (SBHC) offer students primary, behavioral, and dental care at their schools, filling an access gap in low-income and rural communities. During the pandemic, New York State’s SBHCs turned to telehealth services. The return to in-person school in fall 2021 has sparked an increased need for in-person services as children struggle with new and exacerbated mental health issues. At the same time, SBHCs need help understanding temporary government resources, emerging treatment recommendations for struggling young people, and the best ways to deliver care. In 2021, NYSHealth awarded the New York School-Based Health Foundation a grant to support SBHCs to improve the detection and treatment of mental health needs for low-income students who have returned to in-person school.
Under this grant, with co-funding from the New York Community Trust, the New York School-Based Health Foundation will offer customized technical assistance and capacity building to SBHC sponsors and their associated sites. It will identify best practice tools and approaches for delivering in-school mental health care, and it will curate tools and resources in a comprehensive library. It will also survey members to assess their capacity to offer mental health care, including use of screening tools, relationships with school personnel, and referral methods. The New York School-Based Health Foundation will also help SBHCs build competencies in screening and identifying students in need; prioritizing services based on student risk, with a focus on prevention, outreach to at-risk populations, and immediate intervention for students in crisis; improving teamwork among health center and school personnel; and building community referral partnerships and promoting mental health awareness among the school community. Subject matter experts will deliver individualized technical assistance, as well as webinars and group workshops for peer-to-peer and group learning.