Mar 30 2016 Public-private partnership bolsters behavioral health services within Providence schools
Last month, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza announced the launch of the School Counseling and Support Services Partnership program, a partnership between two local mental health agencies and six city schools. By providing increased accessibility to behavioral health services for students and their families, at no cost to the school district and at convenient hours and locations, the program aims to improve students’ academic performance. “With this partnership, we can offer our students the mental health and social service supports they need to overcome obstacles that are holding back their ability to be fully engaged and ready to learn,” explained Chris Maher, Superintendent of Providence Schools, in the announcement.
Mental health organizations from the private sector will work with school staff in this intersector approach. From the public sector, school social workers and psychologists will assist with the implementation of the program. Teachers and principals will be able to directly refer students to services offered in the school during and after school hours, eliminating the obstacle of additional travel to and from appointments. From the non-profit sector, the Providence Center will place clinicians in the six schools, while from the private sector, Behavioral Health Solutions will provide clinical and technical management support. Providence School Board Vice President Nina Pande highlighted the value of working with these private mental health agencies in a piece in the Providence Journal: “In a difficult budget environment, offering these services can be a real challenge. … That’s why we are excited about this public-private partnership with two of Rhode Island’s most respected mental health providers.”
“In a difficult budget environment, offering these services can be a real challenge. … That’s why we are excited about this public-private partnership with two of Rhode Island’s most respected mental health providers.”
West Elementary School began a pilot program for this partnership in the fall of 2015 and has since enrolled 44 students for services. West Elementary School is already seeing positive results with attendance rising and violations of the discipline code decreasing. Additionally, parents are engaging with the school more frequently, according to a recent article. With the demonstrated results at West Elementary School and Superintendent Maher’s “thoughtful and collaborative leadership styles,” previously noted by School Board President Keith Oliveira, we’re excited to see the progress of the School Counseling and Support Services Partnership.
For other examples of how schools can use cross-sector partnerships to provide comprehensive social services to students, see our blog post on Community Learning Schools. According to the Communities In Schools website, “troubled students and their families often have a hard time accessing and navigating through the maze of public and private services.” Through a school-based coordinator position, the organization “brings local resources inside the public school setting, where they are accessible, coordinated, and accountable.” Schools can partner with local businesses, social service agencies, health care providers, and volunteers to provide a range of services, from food, school supplies, health care, counseling, academic assistance, or positive role models for their students.