TDMHSAS takes school-based Mental Health Service statewide
October 15, 2020
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is expanding its School-Based Behavioral Health Liaison program to all 95 counties in the state. Governor Bill Lee budgeted and the Tennessee General Assembly appropriated an increase of $3 million for the current fiscal year to expand the program.
School Based Behavioral Health Liaisons provide face-to-face consultation with classroom teachers who enhance learning environments for children who have or are at-risk for Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED), behavior problems, or substance use disorders. Liaisons also provide training and education for classroom teachers and serve as a link between schools and families.
Liaisons currently serve elementary, middle, and high schools in 36 Tennessee counties. In state fiscal year 2020 which ended June 30, liaisons served about 7,500 children and youth and 2,500 teachers. Liaisons held more than 11,000 individual counseling sessions and 7,300 individual consultations.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting so many facets of life, there has never been a time of greater focus on the mental health of our children, youth, and young adults. It is both fortunate and fortuitous that Governor Lee and the General Assembly budgeted the funding to expand this much-needed service,“ said TDMHSAS Commissioner Marie Williams, LCSW.
The school-based nature of the service meant the current liaisons had to adapt quickly to changes brought on by COVID-19. Liaisons pulled together community resources to support their students’ immediate needs in addition to their mental health needs.
With the new school year underway, liaisons have adapted to continue to provide their core services in the new environment using various forms of technology, and they have been holding small group trainings and meetings where possible and safe.
The expansion of the School Based Behavioral Health Liaison program comes as the department and its community mental health providers are expanding the Behavioral Health Safety Net (BHSN) to children and youth ages 3-17. The BHSN provides essential mental health services to uninsured or under-insured Tennesseans.