Virginia officials say school mental health pilot ‘successfully launched’ new services
Virginia’s behavioral health agency is recommending policymakers continue developing a plan for mental health care for youth after a pilot program ended last spring.
Under the school-based mental health pilot program, six Virginia school divisions — Bristol, Hanover, Hopewell, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg and Richmond city — increased mental health services for students using a combined $2.5 million in grants from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
In a Sept. 1 report to the Behavioral Health Commission, the agency concluded the pilot had “successfully launched several school-based services.”
However, it cautioned, “the commonwealth’s school-based mental health funds are offered through multiple programs without common outcome measures to adequately assess or compare effectiveness of services.”
Schools that received funding used it to partner with community service providers, hire mental health professionals and offer resources such as calming spaces for students. They also received technical support from the Virginia Department of Education and DBHDS and were required to use a state-designed plan to meet students’ mental health, social and emotional needs.
“The grant has greatly assisted our continued efforts to care for the whole child, not only the academic, but the social, physical, and emotional well-being of our students,” said Chris Whitley, an assistant superintendent with Hanover County Public Schools, in a statement to the Mercury.
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