Following the recent death of a student at a high school in Brooklyn, four behavioral health coaches and their supervisor from the 100 Schools Project were immediately on hand to provide group and individual counseling, as well as information about supportive resources available to the community. “The assistant principal was very appreciative of the support we have provided in response to this crisis,” said Andrew Belcher of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, who is serving as assistant director for the 100 Schools Project. “We’ve tried to create an informal, relaxed setting to connect with the community and provided refreshments to foster a drop-in environment where we can share our expertise with the children and families without being intrusive.”
Meeting the needs of students with emotional, behavioral, and substance-use issues can often be a challenge for schools. Educators may not be properly trained to recognize or manage students’ signs of distress, and emotional episodes can disrupt the school. To help, OneCity Health, the Performing Provider System (PPS) led by NYC Health + Hospitals, partnered with other city-based PPSs—Community Care of Brooklyn, Bronx Health Access, and Bronx Partners for Healthy Communities—to launch the 100 Schools Project under the State’s Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program. OneCity Health and its partners are providing the structure, support, and resources to help and empower the community to make real change. By the end of the 2017-2018 school year, the 100 Schools Project was in 95 schools across the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan and had made a tremendous impact, according to school officials. Behavioral health coaches personalize services to the needs of each school they work in, including student workshops focused on substance use disorders, and staff development sessions to help teachers manage disruptions in the classroom and crisis de-escalation techniques.
Coordinated by the Jewish Board under the leadership of OneCity Health and its partners, the 100 Schools Project brings together schools and community health resources to improve students’ access to mental health services, creating a more productive learning environment for both students and teachers. Participating schools also learn how to connect students who have emotional, behavioral, or substance-use challenges with top-tier local mental health providers while enabling the students to remain in school. “Through this program, we’re seeing a strong impact on the culture and safety in the school environment and helping to reduce the stigma related to mental health,” said Israel Rocha Jr, Chief Executive Officer of OneCity Health and Vice President of NYC Health + Hospitals. “Teachers are learning more about depression and trauma, and the need to intervene as soon as possible. We recognize that health starts in the home and in the community, and these types of programs are critical to improving the health of the populations we serve.” At the Brooklyn high school dealing with the loss of a student, the behavioral health coaches also taught mindfulness activities, while a social worker was on hand to talk to staff and students. The team is also planning a loss and bereavement group for the new school year. “I am very proud of the work the 100 Schools Project has been doing in this community,” said Belcher. “In a crisis, our team is a reliable, trusted avenue by which a school can seek help. As we keep reminding the schools, it is important that they care for themselves as they tend to the community.” Over the summer the 100 Schools Project has been expanding to colleges. Four community colleges in the City University of New York—Bronx Community College, Guttman Community College, Hostos Community College and LaGuardia Community College—hosted workshops for staff, student leaders and families, conduct crisis trainings and mentor students interested in behavioral health careers.