Children have more pressure on them than ever before. Between the effects of social media, bullying, educational pressures and social demands, many teens are being pushed to their emotional limits. With increased mental health issues being identified in young people, supporting this population has taken on increased importance. The city of Houston, Texas, has partnered with Baylor College of Medicine (Baylor) to meet these needs with an innovative program called Be-Well Be-Connected.
Be-Well Be-Connected, which targets students six to 17 years old, is set to launch in January 2020 by providing mental health resources in schools. Who the program is looking to reach? Per Dr. Laurel Williams, who’s heading up Be-Well-Be-Connected, the 3,500 Houston children — that’s one-in-seven — who are dealing with mental health problems.
Williams, an associate professor of psychiatry at Baylor and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital, tells Parentology the program will involve select school districts and provide different levels of support. Services will be made available to the child through Baylor and community resources.
“Screening of students will take place with parental consent,” Williams says. “The referral team can then help parents by connecting them with resources.”
In situations when a school identifies a student as being an urgent case, a telehealth appointment between the child and a mental health professional will assess their mental status.
The program will also allow for the identification of high needs youth who are suffering from bipolar disorder or first episode psychosis. “Support can then be provided through Baylor with home visits, allowing the young person to stay engaged in their community and in their schools,” Williams says. “The program will ensure the coordination of efforts. It is a patient and family-centered approach.”
Organizations Involved with Be-Well Be-Connected
Be-Well Be-Connected is helping fulfill the mission of the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium (TCMHCC), which was established through legislation in the Texas state Senate earlier this year. A $4 million, four-year grant was awarded to the city by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Williams said Be-Well Be-Connected will be promoted through various channels, including team members of the schools and the PTA.
Other important duties of the TCMHCC include developing of a telehealth program to assist school districts with identification of mental health care needs and accessing services, expanding a Community Psychiatry Workforce through Funding of full-time psychiatrists who will serve as academic medical directors at community mental health providers, and supervising new resident rotations at those facilities, as well as funding child and adolescent psychiatry fellowships.
The grant is managed by the City Mayor’s Office of Education. Mayor Sylvester Turner was quoted on Innovation Map as saying, “I created the Office of Education to support school districts in Houston because they are doing the essential work of guaranteeing that our next generation of adults is educated and ready for the future.”
Turner continued, “The grant validates our efforts and, more importantly, will provide care on the frontlines of a key health issue involving young people.”