Dec 17, 2020
GWAEA PRIDE: Mental Health Pilots
Grant Wood Area Education Agency’s Chief Administrator John Speer with Kris Donnelly, executive director of teaching and learning, presented at this year's virtual AESA conference. Their presentation documented initiatives designed to help provide mental health infrastructure and support services for students in GWAEA public schools. During this presentation, both cited board members, superintendents, and cabinet members who all unanimously agreed mental health was a top concern in every school district in Iowa.
“Access to mental health services has always been important, but where we’re really seeing students struggle is in rural communities that lack adequate funding or nearby resources and organizations.” stated Speer. To address this need, major steps had been taken on expanding pilot sites and exploring ways this can be economically feasible.
The three pilot initiatives address this need in the following ways:
Interconnected System Framework (ISF Sites)
Grant Wood AEA helped districts using Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to implement a structure and process to integrate efforts from the district, GWAEA, and community mental health partners through a model called Interconnected System Framework (ISF). This new framework allows district, AEA, and community partners to receive cross training to ensure all organizations learn about one another’s systems. It also provides a structure that promotes student and family participation in interventions. Teams use data to promote mental wellness for all, identify mental health needs early, match needs to evidence based interventions and monitor for effectiveness.
Site-Based Mental Health Counseling
The second initiative involved ensuring students have access to onsite mental health services especially in rural school settings. Grant Wood AEA accomplished this by coordinating with local mental health providers.
Crisis Intervention Mental Health Counseling - J-Fast
The third initiative expanded services in the Juvenile and Family Assistance and Stabilization (J-FAST) program that dispatches counselors to quickly intervene in crisis situations. Grant Wood AEA replicated the successful J-FAST partnership by forming a consortium of rural districts that otherwise wouldn’t have access to a comparable program.
Through the successful implementation of these efforts, Grant Wood AEA expanded mental health support and services to 18 partnering school districts (in addition to the five districts that were already receiving mental health services separately from the pilot.) Despite the challenges created by COVID-19 as districts switched between virtual and in-person learning, these pilot initiatives are continuing into the 2020-21 academic year. The AEA plans on moving the pilot forward and is considering options for expansion in future years.