EDC has been selected to provide training and technical assistance for a new school-based mental health and suicide prevention initiative in Indiana. The work, which is funded by North Central Health Services (NCHS), will reach an estimated 35,000 students in 12 school districts by 2024.
“We are proud to partner with NCHS on this critical issue,” says Richard Fournier, partnership director of EDC Solutions. “It is a very difficult time to be a young person in America, and we believe that school-based interventions can play a significant role in promoting health and well-being.”
The work comes at a time of increased concern about the impact of the pandemic on youth mental health. In October, a coalition of health professionals declared a national emergency in child and adolescent health. A rise in suicide rates and rates of depression among youth also prompted an advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General.
In its role as a training and technical assistance partner, EDC will work with district and school leaders, educators, and support staff to improve school-based suicide prevention programming. Fournier says the new initiative will align with existing protocols that identify students at-risk of suicide and establish schoolwide supports in the event of a suicide.
“Our primary goal is to build upon existing protocols that promote students’ social and emotional growth, and that create climates supportive of student’s mental health,” Fournier says.
EDC will also manage a community of practice for participants, where practitioners will share successes and challenges with peers.
“Experience has shown us that protecting youth mental health takes the entire community,” says Chuck Klevgaard, an EDC behavioral health expert and advisor to the new initiative. “The best outcomes occur when parents, educators, support staff, and students themselves feel connected to the school and know what programs are in place to help them.”
Shawna-Hite Jones, project manager, adds that EDC will be using the Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) framework to help schools implement programs that reach all students. EDC has previously used the MTSS framework approach in its Social Emotional Learning & Mental Health Academy in Massachusetts.
“Part of creating a healthy community is addressing both individual and collective mental health needs,” says Hite-Jones. “The MTSS framework has been shown to be very effective in aligning supports so that no student falls in between the services meant to support them. We will combine this multi-tiered framework with known best practices in suicide prevention to develop local leadership and capacity in prevention efforts. With such a clear and present need for these services in Indiana’s schools, we are ready to get to work.”