Howard Co. Will Provide Mental Health Services for All Public School Students

Howard County will provide every student in all 77 Howard County Public Schools (HCPS) with access to mental health services, investing $2.1 million into school-based programs.

Yesterday, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball unveiled a plan to expand access to mental health services to every single public school student in all of the county’s 77 public schools. The county has committed $2.1 million to expand school-based mental health programs for at least the next two years.

“Even before the pandemic exacerbated this crisis, we recognized the gap in mental health services, especially for our students and young residents. Every Howard County student – which means nearly 58,000 kids in every school – will now have access to mental health services,” said County Executive Ball. “Additionally, with this funding we’re filling the gap for children and families who are historically have difficulty accessing this critical, live-saving mental health care. Everyone deserves the same access to mental health care. Our actions, at the individual level and the government level, can make a difference and save lives.”

According to a county press release, the county’s approach will be two-pronged, featuring a School-Based Mental Health Program (SBMHS) and HoCo Strives Mental Health Services.

School-Based Mental Health Program (SBMHS)

  • $1.7 million will be appropriated to expand the School-Based Mental Health program for the next two years to all 77 public schools.
  • Howard County contributed $980,000 in American Rescue Plan funding, with additional contributions being made by The Horizon Foundation and The Kahlert Foundation.
  • SBMHS makes social workers available in HCPSS schools to increase access to student mental health services.
  • In the 2019-20 school year, the program served 15 elementary schools, nine middle schools, five high schools, and one education center (middle and high school students) out of 77 total schools in the district.
  • During the program, 58% of students referred to SBMHS were connected with a community mental health provider and referred students attended 90% of their scheduled appointments with community providers. The program also saw positive outcomes with improved attendance, academic growth, improved social-emotional skills, and reduced discipline referrals.

HoCo STRIVES Mental Health Initiatives

  • County Executive Ball has included $380,000 in his proposed fiscal year 2023 budget to expand mental health services to the most vulnerable students and families through HoCo STRIVES.
  • HoCo STRIVES is the umbrella for several initiatives that engage a cross-sector of partners to ensure all Howard County children and youth can succeed in school. Its goal is to remove barriers and increase access for vulnerable families.
  • Now STRIVES can also support specific barriers to mental health access – providing targeted case management, transportation to therapy, a parent-coaching program, support for under and uninsured families and those that need intensive case.
  • STRIVES Programs include:
    • Building Youth Resiliency: serving kids who are unable to access treatment due to cost, transportation, and other socioeconomic barriers.
    • Psychiatric Rehab Program: supporting under or uninsured youth in need of mental health services.
    • Parent Coaching Program: designed to engage parents in understanding their child’s social and mental health needs and learn parenting strategies to meet these needs.
    • Evidence-Based Practices Program: train providers so they can become certified in child- and family-focused clinical intervention programs.
    • Early Childhood Professionals Mental Health Capacity Building: support a year-long suite of professional training opportunities geared toward 3 major groups: Professionals, Community Members, and Youth.

Learn more about Howard County’s plan to expand school-based mental health services and read the county’s press release on the initiative.