On January 17, 2018, the Kansas Association of School Psychologists, Kansas School Counselor's Association, and the Kansas School Social Worker's Association collaborated on holding the first official School Mental Health Awareness Day at the Topeka State Capitol. This day was sponsored by Representative Eber Phelps from the 111th District. Representative Phelps also had sponsored last year's Lobby Day at the Capitol which was also a collaboration between the three associations.
After welcoming remarks from Representative Phelps, a representative from each of the organizations shared remarks on making the most of the day at the Capitol. Topics touched upon included "How to Talk with Your Legislative Representative", school psychologists as advocates in the school setting, and shortages in mental health providers within the school setting. Mental health providers are often so inundated with the daily survival tasks we all undertake, that we often forget about the "Macro Level". We must be aware of the need to seek out support for our professions, and the importance that our professions have in supporting the mental health of Kansas's children in the schools. The School Mental Health Awareness Day is an opportunity for each of us to be the voice of our profession, advocating for what we do, as well as for the mental health needs of our students and staff members.
A Panel Discussion was then held with Ms. Colleen Riley, KSDE Early Childhood, Special Education, and Title Services; Mr. Kent Reed, KSDE Counseling, and Mr. Myron Melton, KSDE Education Consultant. They were present and available to field questions from the group. Discussion was held around the importance of developing partnerships between schools and the community resources available to districts and families. Kansas is looking at how to develop a systematic approach not only at the building level, but on developing and maintaining the community partnerships. TASN has developed a School Mental Health Framework to assist in embedding the mental health supports within the MTSS Framework. KSDE applied for a State Personnel Development Grant to cover 2017-2022, which was awarded in October of 2017. The grand's proposal addresses a "singular critical Kansas priority area for schools by establishing a systematic, coordinated, tiers system of trauma-informed, school mental health that will build the resiliences of Kansas children and adolescents with disabilities and their peers. The overarching goal of the Grant is to improve resilience and achievement of children and adolescents with disabilities and their peers through the sustained implementation of systematic tiered levels of evidence-based mental health interventions.
School Mental Health Framework and TASN
School Mental Health Development Grant Full Proposal
Goals set for the Grant included building capacity within the schools, recognizing the mental health needs of students, identifying the strong practices that are effective in triggering interventions as well as moving students out of interventions, providing a systematic structure of support to build a bridge between schools and community resources, and to provide coaches into the community to assist in generalizing a comprehensive structure across the state of Kansas.
Kansas was the 1st state to develop social-emotional standards. These competencies are a critical cornerstone in the development of our children into effective and contributing members of our society. Advocacy for increased Birth to 8 funding in Early Childhood is needed to allow for early interventions which result in long-term positive outcomes for students, and prepare them for entry into our elementary buildings ready to learn. Supports and services in this area are not consistent across the state, which is one of the goals to reach.
KS Social-Emotional Competencies
KSDE Refresher on Vision for Kansas
Kansans Can! and Do! Presentation
Dr. Jeff Colyer, Lieutenant Governor of the State of Kansas took time out of his busy schedule to address the SMAD participants. He talked with the group about the challenges that our students are facing with changing family structures, impact of drugs, and poverty, with 11 to 15% of our students reporting major depressive episodes prior to graduation from school. Kansas currently has an average graduation rate of 84%, with many of the kids who have dropped out dealing with mental health issues. The priority of resources to provide services for our kids is in the forefront of discussions for the state. Dr. Colyer recognized how much tenacity it takes to remain in positions that are challenging and how important school-based mental health is, not only at the middle and high school levels, but at the elementary level as well.
Kansas must help to defer the stigma of mental illness and getting parents and students to access those services early on, rather than waiting to get services because of roadblocks of money or not having insurance to cover the services needed. Insurance rates have continued to climb and an increase in the number of Kansans on Medicaid has increased to almost 450,000 from 330,00 since control of insurance was taken away from the states. Dr. Colyer expressed the need to get back into a competitive work cycle for insurance so the needs of our families can be addressed earlier and outcomes can be improved.
After Dr. Colyer spoke to the group, representatives from NAMI, Mr. Rick Cagan, Executive Director and Linsey Spooner-Gabaldon, Project Manager, addressed the participants. They shared that 1 in 10 children are currently living with serious mental health needs. Fifty (50) percent of those children are not in services. Research has shown than 50% of children with mental health needs will drop out of school prior to graduation. NAMI provides free of cost classes to middle and high school students (Ending the Silence), as well as classes for parents and caregivers that have children with mental illness (NAMI Basics; Family-to-Family Education Program) to help families in developing the skills needed to advocate for and support their children. These classes are taught by other parents who have their own children with mental health issues. In addition, there is a Say It Out Loud adult presentation toolkit that is available to help start the conversation with students.
NAMI Say It Out Loud
In addition, NAMI Kansas shared that their goals are for peer support, education, and advocacy and are here as a resource to the state of Kansas, mental health providers, and families. They provided a Local Group Contact Information Sheet of the NAMI Affiliates and Support Groups across the state of Kansas.
NAMI Electronic Link to Resources
Closing remarks were made at 11:30 and the group convened for lunch at the Celtic Fox. The afternoon consisted of individual visits with Legislators, as well as testimony from the SMHAD Leadership to the Senate Education Committee and the House Education Committee.
Plans are in the works to continue the tradition of the School Mental Health Awareness Day. Be sure to check for emails for this event in the future. The day spent at the Capitol was well worth taking time out from a busy schedule to hear what the vision of our government is for the state of Kansas