The SMART Center’s effort to use policy and financing strategies to take effective School Mental Health to Scale in Washington State

Our state is in the midst of a children’s mental health crisis. Nearly 100 Washington youth die by suicide in any given year. The rate of young people who experience depression and suicidality has increased 35% in the past decade.

We envision a Washington where all children and youth are mentally well, and youth suicide is a thing of the past. To achieve this outcome, we envision our state as a national leader in investing in evidence-based policies and strategies to address the current crisis in children’s mental health where the vast majority of children and youth already are – in their schools.

A plan of action

Effective school mental health is unlikely to be achieved at scale without accountability structures, quality monitoring, investment in the school-based workforce, and technical assistance to schools and districts.

Our Case for School Mental Health brief highlights key statistics on the benefit of – and need for – comprehensive school mental health services. The “case for school mental health” does not just point to a general recommendation for increased availability of school mental health services, but more specific policy and funding recommendations.

Our 2021 Policy & Funding Recommendations include:

  1. Development and deployment of a statewide accountability framework for a multi-tiered system of school mental health support (MTSS), that can aid districts to develop plans and stay on track
  2. Research-based professional development for school professionals and technical assistance for districts on implementing MTSS and effective SMH.
  3. Funding for districts and schools, to help them implement MTSS to fill gaps in the continuum of SMH services.
  4. A statewide youth mental health surveillance system, that mobilizes data already available from sources such as school data, student surveys, and state health records, that keeps the state focused on child and family mental health and allows for immediate mobilization when “hot spots” (e.g., suicides, emergency room visits, youth distress) emerge.

Download our Case for School Mental Health brief here.

Our Partners

The SMART Center is also a member of the School-Based Behavioral Health and Suicide Prevention Subcommittee of the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Work Group (CYBHWG).

2022 Legislative Session Bill Tracking

Each week during the legislative session, we prepare and update a comprehensive bill tracker that outlines all legislation related to school mental health that has introduced so far during that legislative session.

Sign up for our listserv to receive regular updates and access our new and improved 2022 Bill Tracker Dashboard here!

Interested in school mental health and youth suicide prevention legislation from previous legislative sessions? See our bill trackers for prior years below:

Recent Events & In The News:

Eric Bruns and Kelcey Schmitz joined the Association of Washington School Principals, legislators, OSPI staff, and other organization on October 26, 2021 to discuss school mental health resources and hear from school leaders and policymakers about the needs in our state. Learn more about the meeting and access resources here.

Eric Bruns and Jennifer Stuber presented “Putting Mental Health at the Heart of Washington’s Schools” at the 2019 WA Mental Health Summit on October 29, 2019. Access the presentation slides here.

Eric Bruns and Jennifer Stuber in the Seattle Times: “Time to put mental health at the heart of our schools” (April 2019)

Interested in participating or have questions?

Click here to complete a survey that will allow you to join our mailing list and/or give input! You can also email us at uwsmart@uw.edu or contact Dr. Eric J. Bruns, UW SMART PolicyCore Lead, at ebruns@uw.edu.