In December 2021, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Center for School Mental Health released a guide for state education agencies on strategies to advance comprehensive school mental health systems. The report outlines the core features of a comprehensive system and highlights some of the rationale for providing mental health supports in schools, including evidence that the pandemic is impacting the well-being of students, educators, and school staff, which all have an impact on the success of schools.
The guide outlines five steps that state education leaders can take to support the establishment of comprehensive school mental health systems, along with resources and state examples of each action. The five steps are:
- Establish a statewide strategy and framework that focuses on supporting students’ academic development and student and staff well-being and connection, including mental health.
- Form strong, diverse partnerships to develop and implement the strategy.
- Take an asset-based approach that focuses on strengths and values diversity in race, culture, language, ability and thought.
- Align efforts with existing efforts and COVID recovery.
- Prioritize capacity-building at the local level to advance comprehensive school mental health systems.
The report provides examples of state education agencies leading the way on each of these steps, including a highlight of Texas’ efforts. The report highlighted the progress that Texas has made in collaborating with partners to launch the Texas School Mental Health Framework and lay out its first Statewide Plan for School Mental Health. Texas was also recognized for establishing a school mental health website, developing a School Mental Health Practice Guide and Toolkit, and offering training and support through the new Safe and Supportive Schools Division at TEA. Additionally, the report recognizes the state for creating an online resource that outlines health and human service initiatives that focus on meeting the behavioral health needs of Texas through HHSC’s Office of Mental Health Coordination.