A Pilot Demonstration of Comprehensive Mental Health Services in Inner-City Public Schools

Heather J. Walter*, Karen Gouze, Colleen Cicchetti, Richard Arend, Tara Mehta, Janet Schmidt, Madelynn Skvarla

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: National policy statements increasingly espouse the delivery of comprehensive mental health services in schools. In response to the limited evidence supporting this recommendation, the purpose of this study was to assess the need for, and feasibility, desirability, and outcomes of a full model of comprehensive mental health services in 2 public elementary schools in inner-city neighborhoods. Methods: The program, based upon a national model for comprehensive school mental health services, comprised universal and indicated preventive as well as clinical interventions designed to target needs identified in a baseline screening survey. The program was implemented over 1 school year by mental health professionals in collaboration with school teachers. Mental health outcomes comparing baseline to follow-up data were assessed in multiple domains among students and teachers. Results: After 1 year of intervention, students had significantly fewer mental health difficulties, less functional impairment, and improved behavior, and reported improved mental health knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behavioral intentions. Teachers reported significantly greater proficiency in managing mental health problems in their classrooms. School staff overwhelmingly endorsed satisfaction with the program. Conclusion: If the observed favorable findings from this pilot demonstration can be replicated in methodologically rigorous studies, additional support would be garnered for national policy recommendations about comprehensive school mental health services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-193
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of School Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • Children
  • Prevention
  • Psychiatry
  • School mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Education
  • Philosophy


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