The Mental Health Supports Gap for CPS Students

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1 A COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS OF CHICAGO REPORT Spring 2012 The Mental Health Supports Gap for CPS Students Overview There is a significant gap between the need for mental health support at Chicago s public schools and the resources available, according to a new analysis of information collected by Communities In Schools of Chicago. This report identifies pressing areas of concern about mental health programming from the perspectives of principals, assistant principals, counselors and others who work directly with elementary and high school students. For the purposes of this report, mental health services are defined as programs and services that address the emotional and behavioral well-being of students and their families, including anger management, conflict resolution, crisis intervention, grief and loss counseling and self-esteem programs. Communities In Schools of Chicago is a non-profit organization that connects Chicago Public School students with programs and services they need that their schools often cannot provide. From health promotion and arts enrichment, to violence prevention education and mental health support, the services that Communities In Schools of Chicago links to students are provided at no cost to schools. The Communities In Schools of Chicago network currently includes 159 Chicago public schools and more than 160 community-based service providers. This year, these teams will work to reach more than 60,000 students with more than 1,300 programs and services each year. Key Findings During the school year, 105 schools in the Communities In Schools of Chicago network 64 percent of the network identified mental health services as a top-10 priority for supporting students. In May 2011, Communities In Schools of Chicago surveyed its network of schools to gain more insight into the need for mental health support and the availability of services; 147 school leaders and staff responded. Following are highlights from the survey. How We Collect Data School Priorities Annually, Communities In Schools of Chicago conducts research, surveys and meetings with the faculty, administrators, support staff and students from its network of schools to identify each school s priorities of student needs. Professional Perspectives One-hundred forty-seven principals, assistant principals, counselors, case managers, social workers, teachers and other school-based administrators participated in a special mental health-related survey in May They responded to questions addressing the need for and impact of mental health programming at their schools and on their students. Follow-up interviews were conducted with some respondents. Program Data Communities In Schools of Chicago captures data on each of the services and programs it connects to schools. This data includes the number of students involved, and the number of community partners who provide the services and programs. 1

2 The Mental Health Supports Gap for CPS Students (continued from page 1) There Is An Overwhelming Need For Mental Health Support. Seventy percent of survey respondents said that half or more of their students need mental health services addressing self-esteem. Nearly 54 percent of respondents said that half or more of their students need mental health services addressing anger management. Ninety-two percent of respondents said that there would be more than 10 students at their schools who could benefit from a therapist providing schoolbased counseling. (See sidebar, A Dynamic Collaboration, on pages 4 and 5.) Mental Health Impacts Schools In Many Ways. Nearly 80 percent of respondents think that mental health issues are impacting classrooms more now than three years ago. Students are unable to resolve conflicts without fighting, wrote one respondent. Fighting leads to other problems, which take valuable time away from instruction. Defining Mental Health Programs During the school year, these categories defined mental health programming* at Communities In Schools of Chicago. Anger Management Programs Art Therapy Crisis Intervention Programs Grief and Loss Counseling Group Counseling Individual Counseling Nearly 76 percent of respondents believe that teachers could be better supported in their classroom interactions with students who require additional mental health support by having professional development around mental health topics. Teachers need to learn how to infuse Social/Emotional Learning into their curriculums, and learn best practices for creating positive learning environments for all students, wrote one respondent. This will provide needed support for everyone, especially those students with mental health needs. Nearly 60 percent of respondents believe mental health issues have a moderate to major impact on non-attendance. Self-esteem Programs Support Groups *Helping students understand mental health is an important step toward erasing stigmas and purging misinformation. While the data shared in this report do not include mental health awareness programming, it is important to note that during the school year, there were nearly 550 students and 260 faculty who participated in mental health awareness programs across eight elementary and high schools. These programs were provided by two community partners working with Communities In Schools of Chicago. Students don t come to school when they have problems, according to a survey respondent. Parents problems keep them from school, and students problems interfere with other students. Awareness Of The Need For Mental Health Services Is Growing. Fifty-nine percent of respondents agree that schools are providing more programming around mental health issues than they did three years ago. 2

3 I think mental health issues have always impacted the classroom, but we are now addressing it more, wrote a respondent. I believe teachers and staff are better educated now on most common mental health issues, therefore they re able to better recognize and identify these in their classrooms, according to a respondent. Current Resources Are Not Enough Counselors and social workers, whose roles include providing students with social and emotional support, are based at every Chicago public school. According to the Chicago Public Schools, there is one full-time, school-based counselor allocated for each elementary school with up to 1,199 students enrolled. Most elementary schools have an enrollment of fewer than 600 students and have a full-time counselor, according to the school district. Additionally, Chicago Public Schools data show that there are 357 Masters-level social workers who support students across the district s 675 public schools. Eighty-three percent of those surveyed report that their school counselors are available to students daily. In contrast, 16 percent of those surveyed report that their school social workers are available to students daily. Respondents had strong opinions about the amount of time allocated to supporting students mental health. The school counselor is responsible for administrative duties and is available for providing only limited direct mental health support to students, wrote one respondent. The services available to students through the school social worker are not enough to address the level of need. We have a long waiting list for the services (of outside partners) that come here to provide individual counseling. Counselors are Key Teachers and school counselors are crucial in identifying students who need help, according to Valerie Wiley, Director of The Schools Group, a non-profit agency that provides mentalhealth programming to six schools in the Communities In Schools of Chicago network. However, given the number of students they serve and their many other duties, they simply can t provide the ongoing support that many kids need. Wiley, who is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, added, So many students are dealing with serious family or peer issues, and we know that intervention helps. But there aren t any quick fixes. It is critical for kids to have someone to talk to who is not expecting something from them, as a parent or teacher does. Counselors can be completely accepting and non-judging and help kids develop the internal resources to cope with their lives. Another respondent opined, Counselors spend more time administering standardized tests than counseling students. Based on the survey, bringing external mental health services into schools is an important way to address the resource gap. Nearly 60 percent of respondents report that their schools have partnerships with one or more organizations that provide mental health counseling to students. 3

4 The Mental Health Supports Gap for CPS Students (continued from page 3) One Organization s Perspective Communities In Schools of Chicago is one of the external partners cited by survey respondents that collaborates with schools to provide students access to mental health services, based on demand: During the school year, schools ranked mental health services third among their top 10 priorities for supporting students, just behind health education and violence prevention education. A Dynamic Collaboration During the school year, 21 schools requested group counseling services for their students. Echoing the need vs. resources gap of other types of mental health categories, only one school received such a service: Chase Elementary School. Most Requested School-based Mental Health Services (shown with number of schools requesting the service) Self-Esteem Programs 49 Anger Management 43 Individual Counseling 37 Group Counseling 21 Grief and Loss Counseling 9 Stress Management Support Groups Art Therapy Crisis Intervention Schools requests for mental health services far outpaced the supply available through Communities In Schools of Chicago, leading to the organization s greatest service gap of the school year. There were 105 schools that prioritized the need for mental health services; at the end of the school year, 19 schools received services through Communities In Schools of Chicago partners, providing support for nearly 880 students. These services were provided at no cost to the schools or students. Communities In Schools of Chicago most frequently connected individual counseling programs to schools; this service occurred at 12 schools. The principal and counselor at Chase wanted to create a counseling group for some of its seventh- and eighth-grade girls whose self-esteem needed support. Therapists from The Studio for Change at Flourish Studios were willing to offer therapeutic support for the students, provided the school could provide private classroom space, facilitate parental approval of the girls participation, and approve the Studio s 11-week program goals. The school and therapeutic partner quickly agreed on the program and launched Powerful Girls in Winter Continued on page 5 Group counseling services were connected to one school. (To learn about a model program, see A Dynamic Collaboration at right.) 4

5 Challenging Logistics During the school year, the average mental health partner working with Communities In Schools of Chicago served 80 students each, far fewer students than served by other types of providers. In comparison, violence prevention education partners served 1,670 students each, and arts enrichment program partners served 1,061 students each. CISC Service Category Violence Prevention Education Arts Enrichment Mental Health Services Academic Enrichment Schools Prioritized Partners Providing Prioritized = Number of Schools that prioritized this category Providing = Number of community partners that provided a service in this category Connected = Number of schools that were connected to a service in this category Served = Average number of students served by each community partner with a service in this category A dominant reason behind the challenging logistics is that, based on practices at Communities In Schools of Chicago, mental health support is most often provided in one-on-one or small-group settings, over a number of weeks and by advanced degreed mental health practitioners. Those factors can make it difficult for Communities In Schools of Chicago to find community organizations that can provide ongoing services at no cost to schools Schools Connected Average Students Served per Partner 1,670 1, A Dynamic Collaboration Continued from page 54 Chase is a school that really gets mental health programming, hands down, says Debra Steele, the Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist from The Studio for Change who ran the program along with school counselor Melissa Swartz. Swartz, who also works with a social worker and clinical therapist to support students at Chase, says that therapeutic relationships are highly valued at Chase. From our principal to all of the teachers, we have a whole-child perspective, she says. The school also has mental health team meetings twice a month to discuss cases and review the referral process. Powerful Girls began its second year at Chase in November Further, Communities In Schools of Chicago s school partners report that coordinating mental health services can be challenging. According to school partners, simply securing a private space within the school building at the same time each week can be a barrier. It also can be difficult to adhere to a regular timetable for student counseling, due to class schedules that change for some middle-years students and allowances for time set aside for standardized testing periods. Conclusion There is good news to be shared: public school administrators and staff are aware of the need for mental health programs for students. Yet, as more schools prioritize their mental health needs with Communities In Schools of Chicago, the greater the probable gap the organization will have in responding to requests. 5

6 The Mental Health Supports Gap for CPS Students (continued from page 5) Resources need to be expanded through community and professional partnerships, says Jane Mentzinger, executive director of Communities In Schools of Chicago. Looking ahead, we must become even more creative in developing ways to support students and to educate parents on their children s needs and by we, I mean nonprofit agencies, government agencies, mental health providers and school leaders. There is a role for each of us to close the gap to support students. Organizations that are interested in working with Communities In Schools of Chicago on this effort are welcome to contact the organization and join the discussion. Acknowledgements Communities In Schools of Chicago extends appreciation to the many people that contributed to this report, and to the school and community partners that successfully provided mental health services to students this past school year. We hope that these findings add thoughtful insight to the ongoing conversation about mental health needs in Chicago s public schools. This report is the second in a series of publications by Communities In Schools of Chicago that explore important topics in local public education. The first report, Understanding Violence Prevention Priorities in Chicago s Schools, was released in May Findings from these reports direct the organization s work in important ways and can help others recognize the particular challenges facing schools, administrators and students. If you would like to learn more about what Communities In Schools of Chicago is doing to support mental health needs in schools, please call the communications office at , ext. 16. Jane Mentzinger, Executive Director Communities In Schools of Chicago 815 W. Van Buren Ave., Suite 300 Chicago, Illinois Telephone: Fax: On Facebook: Communities In Schools of Chicago Since 1988, Communities In Schools of Chicago has played an essential role in linking schools with community services delivered at no cost by dedicated, high-quality community partners. During the school year, Communities In Schools of Chicago connected more than 68,000 students to nearly 1,500 services they otherwise would not have received. It is a nonprofit affiliate of Communities In Schools, Inc., the nation s largest dropout prevention organization. More information can be found at 6

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