Blue Valley USD 229 partnership with Children’s Mercy Hospital lauded on School Mental Health Day

A Kansas-City area school district’s partnership with Children’s Mercy Hospital was lauded Wednesday during School Mental Health day at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. 

Blue Valley USD 229 has a new partnership this school year with the hospital to furnish 19 additional social workers to help address increasing numbers of students who need emotional and social support. The initiative came in the wake of a school district study showing that anxiety and depression were the primary reason Blue Valley students and parents were requesting home-bound services. During the 2016-17 school year, 275 USD 229 students were participating in the suicide prevention program; 30 percent of those were deemed high-risk and received professional support outside the school setting.  

Assistant Superintendent for Well-Being and Student Support Dr. Mark Schmidt told the Senate Education Committee Wednesday that due to funding concerns, he wasn’t sure USD 229 would be able to hire the 19 additional social workers even though the positions were sorely needed. Fortunately, at about that same time Children’s Mercy contacted Blue Valley about developing partnerships to expand the hospital’s services beyond its downtown Kansas City campus. As a result of that outreach, the hospital and the school district are splitting the roughly $1.2 million cost of the additional social workers. 

Schmidt said since the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, the social workers have helped prevent suicides, helped kids transition to different schools and coordinated services for students in foster care. Principals “could not imagine serving needs of students without this level of support,” Schmidt told the committee. 

School mental health issues are receiving heightened attention and scrutiny as education leaders report increased stresses on schools and resources. Due to budget cuts elsewhere in social service budgets, educators say, schools become de-facto mental health treatment centers. 

The Kansas State Board of Education in July of 2017 established the Kansas School Mental Health Advisory Council to advise the Kansas State Board of Education of unmet needs within the state in the area of school mental health; coordinate with legislators and stakeholders to address relevant issues effectively to best meet the needs of students; and coordinate statewide collaborative social emotional character development partnerships with stakeholders that will benefit students. 

 The council has met monthly since July and is scheduled to release a report on its findings soon. 

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