Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

School Psychologists: Qualified Health Professionals Providing Child and Adolescent Mental and Behavioral Health Services

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

School Psychologists: Qualified Health Professionals Providing Child and Adolescent Mental and Behavioral Health Services

Article excerpt

School psychologists are uniquely positioned in schools to facilitate the development, delivery, and monitoring of prompt, effective, and culturally responsive mental and behavioral health services of prevention and intervention. As Hughes and Minke (2014) have observed, "school psychologists are situated in real time in the biopsychosocial system where children spend 35 hours or more a week" (p. 29). School psychologists' broadly focused preparation as academic, mental, and behavioral health service providers, coupled with their engagement in and familiarity with schools' organizational and cultural contexts, equips them to play a primary role in multitiered and responsive school-based mental and behavioral health programs.

The mental and behavioral health of students is a necessary, appropriate, and critical focus of education for individuals birth to age 21. Mental and behavioral wellness is directly linked to overall positive student achievement, school climate, high school graduation rates, and the prevention of risky behaviors, disciplinary incidents, and substance abuse (Center for Health and Healthcare in Schools, 2014). These factors, in turn, are associated with such important life outcomes as improved interpersonal relationships, higher earnings, greater employment stability, and lower likelihood of involvement with the criminal justice system (Aos, Lieb, Mayfield, Miller, & Pennucci, 2004).

Approximately 75% to 80% of children and youth in need of mental health services do not receive them because existing mental health services are inadequate (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). Of those who do receive assistance, the vast majority (70% to 80%) receive mental health services in schools (Farmer, Burns, Philip, Angold, & Costello, 2003; Rones & Hoagwood, 2000). In fact, students were found to be 21 times more likely to visit school-based health centers for mental health concerns than community-based centers (Juszczak, Melinkovich, & Kaplan 2003). As such, schools have been identified as the natural and best setting for mental health prevention and treatment services (Anglin, 2003) and can provide comprehensive prevention and early intervention services for all students, including those with and without identified education disabilities. For those students in need of more intensive services, school psychologists can help coordinate schoolbased services and community-based services to facilitate a wraparound system of care approach to support families.

School psychologists who maintain competencies consistent with NASP standards are qualified providers of child and adolescent mental and behavioral health services. The 2010 National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) standards represent a unified set of principles that guide graduate education, credentialing, professional practice and services, and ethical behavior of effective school psychologists. School psychologists who maintain competencies, knowledge, and skills across the 10 broad and interrelated domains contained within these standards (see Figure 1) are qualified to provide mental and behavioral health services in schools. Such individuals include graduates of NASP-accredited preparation programs, graduates of programs that have addressed NASP standards for graduate preparation, professionals recognized as holding the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) credential, and individuals who have obtained continuing professional development to augment their graduate training related to mental and behavioral health.

Mental and behavioral health services exist on a continuum and are increasingly provided within a multitiered system of supports. School-based mental and behavioral health services encompass more than the intensive therapeutic supports provided to students who are identified with psychiatric disorders and are often served by community-based providers. Comprehensive school-based mental health services delivered within a multitiered system of supports (MTSS) include a range of layered services and supports that promote mental and behavioral wellness among all students. …

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