School-based Behavioral Health

CMHC defines school-based behavioral health services broadly to include social, emotional, and behavioral health services and supports, and substance use prevention and intervention services.

Research finds that approximately one in five children and adolescents experience the signs and symptoms of a diagnosable mental health disorder each year. There are safe and effective treatments for children with emotional and behavioral disorders, and schools often serve as a place where these needs are identified and treated. However, many schools do not have enough resources to address student behavioral health needs. As a result children with mental health disorders are expelled from early education settings, drop out of high school, and enter the juvenile justice system.

The Children’s Mental Health Campaign promotes strategies to remove the barriers that prevent children with behavioral health challenges from having a successful school experience and reaching their full potential.

Thanks to the financial support of the CF Adams Charitable Trust, CMHC, along with some of the state’s most prominent leaders in behavioral health, is developing a policy brief for school-based behavioral health in Massachusetts with the goal of sharing essential components and models of school-based behavioral health and improving equitable access to services and supports for students across the state. This project is convening educators, advocates, school leaders, providers, caregivers, students and leaders in the field to help make equity-informed recommendations for services across the three tiers of intervention (promotion and prevention, early intervention, and targeted intervention).


Schools are an important potential point of screening and intervention for students who are at risk of drug or alcohol abuse. The Children’s Mental Health Campaign is advocating for school nurses or other appropriate health or support staff to screen students for substance abuse and provide positive reinforcement or brief interventions and, in cases where safety is a concern, referrals to treatment. Learn more about the CMHC’s work to promote screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) is schools.