Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Center for Childhood Resilience (CCR) at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago are expanding a comprehensive and collaborative system to better identify pre-age 12 students who need mental health support and to respond to it. The expansion of 200 CPS pilot schools to all district schools aims to strengthen the district’s response to an escalating national adolescent psychiatric crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The school-based Behavioral Health Team (BHT) model developed at Lurie Children’s and led by CCR Executive Director Colleen Cicchetti with CPS peers aims to maximize resources and collaboration to identify students with behavioral health needs early and to connect students to evidence-based interventions. The district, which has already tested more than 200 CPS schools, will begin rolling out these teams to all 515 of its network schools next August, with a goal of reaching all schools by the 2023-24 school year.
The expansion of effective trauma-related behavioral health teams is a key initiative of the district’s healing-centric framework, implementation of which has been formalized under the district’s recently adopted Comprehensive Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Policy. CPS will use a variety of funds, including federal COVID-19 relief funds, to support expansion in SY 2023, but a final budget for full expansion is still being developed. The feasibility and implementation of the BHT model was recently highlighted in the journal Psychology in the Schools by lead author Tali Raviv, PhD, a psychologist and Associate Director of the CCR and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. These teams are designed to support identification and appropriate referral for a range of common mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, trauma-related symptoms, disruptive behavior, adjustment difficulties, peer issues, attention problems, and substance use.