Referral Pathway for Schools

Throughout Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties there are a variety of approaches to supporting students’ mental health. These not only vary by district, they vary by schools within districts.  The process always begins with a method for accessing and identifying student need.  Schools implementing PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) will likely use processes in place via Tier 2 or Tier 3 teams. Other schools will use other methods. 

The first step in understanding the referral process to expanded mental health services is to identify whether the child or youth’s need is an emergency. Emergency need is universally defined as “being an immediate danger to himself/herself or others.”  Practically, this means the student may possibly require hospitalization (e.g., he/she is exhibiting suicidal/homicidal ideation). If this is the case, school’s Emergency Protocols are utilized. Emergency Protocols are discussed more on the CMHC Access page.

If the student does not have an emergency need, the next step in understanding the referral process to expanded mental health services is identifying the key personnel in your school – that is, where would you go first if you had a student you suspected of having a mental health concern.  This might be a school counselor, social worker, nurse, behavioral consultant, special education teacher, etc.

The next step is parent engagement. Families should be brought on board right away when a concern is noted.

Identifying the key process in your school for determining level of school need and strategies for support is the next important step. Your school may utilize more than one of these processes but they may include PBIS Tier 2 or 3 teams, a specified student assistance process, referral for a Functional Behavioral Assessment or General Educational Intervention, etc.

Next you would work with the family and the school team to engage the process selected above. Decision possibilities may include: development of an in-school plan (behavioral plan, Tier 2 or Tier 3 strategy, etc.), a referral (with family) to an external mental health partner (Community Mental Health Center, private mental health provider), referral/involvement of other appropriate professionals or informal supports (physician, CPS, juvenile justice, faith based leader or mentor, etc.), or any of a number of other interventions that may be appropriate and responsive to the individual child and family’s need.

In Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties we have illustrated that process in the following way: School Mental Health Referral Pathway.

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