School-based Mental Health Pilot Program

School-based Mental Health Pilot Program
Posted on 03/10/2020
The Appleton Area School District has been working closely with northeast Wisconsin legislators, including  Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna), to support a school-based mental health pilot program in Outagamie County.

We are so proud that it was signed into law on March 2, 2020. Assembly Bill 644 expands the Child Psychiatry Consultation Program capabilities to school districts, allowing teachers, school counselors, and administrators to address mental health needs in real-time.

The school-based mental health consultation pilot program will assist participating school-based providers in providing enhanced care to students with mental health care needs, to provide referral support for those students, and to provide additional services. The mental health consultation pilot program is not an emergency referral service.
The creation of the bill stemmed from a collaborative effort between legislators, Medical College of Wisconsin, and local school districts, including Appleton and Kaukauna. We worked in tandem to tailor the pilot program to the specific needs that our students and districts are facing, including phone and email consultations, educational sessions for staff, and in-depth case consultations for individual students.

The AASD hosted a meeting last fall regarding the Child Psychiatry Consultation Program (CPCP) and school-based mental health and Superintendent Baseman testified in Madison on its behalf. She also took part in a round table in January where she talked about the bill’s benefits for our students.

Part of Superintendent Baseman’s testimony is below:

We currently use a universal wellness screening at 9th grade and 11th grade. Data in the 2018-2019 school year indicated that 30-34% of our high school students had a positive screen. A positive screening is defined as a student who was found to need further care or services as a result of the screening. Those services are often services from a community mental health provider. During the 2018-2019 school year, 1,862 students were referred to community providers for mental health services or assessment and 201 were admitted for inpatient care for mental health issues.  

However, in our community as well as in other communities across the state, timely access to child psychiatrists is very limited. Providing the CPCP consultation model would be invaluable in getting timely input from medical experts in the field.

Currently in our schools, our Student Services staff (school social workers, school nurses, school psychologists, and school counselors) spend hours each day working through the needs of our students with mental health concerns as well as those students that are impacted by family members with mental health needs.
Although these Student Services staff members do a great job of determining the potential level of need for our students, timely access to a higher level of medical expertise through programs like the CPCP model is essential. Consultation between our Student Services staff and a child psychiatrist would provide further resources to support a wraparound type approach for complex cases. 

Clearly, the need for additional mental health supports and services exists at all levels, from early childhood through grade 12 in our schools. Community collaboration is essential to fully support the needs of our students and their families. 

Our vision in the AASD is to ensure that each graduate is academically, socially and emotionally prepared for success in life, Every Student, Every Day. I believe that the CPCP model would provide our staff with a critical resource to address the complex mental health challenges that create barriers to achieving this vision for each one of our students.

The legislation draws on the success of the Child Psychiatry Consultation Program (CPCP), run by the Medical College of Wisconsin, by expanding its capabilities to school districts in Outagamie County. Because of its mixture of both rural and urban districts, as well as its existing CPCP infrastructure, Outagamie County proved to be an ideal location to launch the pilot program. This school-based mental health pilot program was designed to be scale-able, with an end goal of expanding it statewide.

We look forward to the additional support this program will bring to our schools and students. We believe that our schools present one of the best opportunities for early identification of children needing care and support for mental health challenges. The earlier we can provide support and interventions, the better our chance to support mental wellness for all of our students.