Since the creation of the Children’s Mental Health Campaign in 2006, a consistent theme that has been heard from parents, teachers, and policy makers is the need for more school resources to give students with mental health needs every opportunity to succeed.
On Thursday, representatives Ellen Story and Kay Khan, co-chairs of the Mental Health Caucus at the State House, hosted a briefing on one program that has achieved remarkable success in addressing the needs of students with mental health concerns.
The Brookline Resilient Youth Team (BRYT) Program utilizes the resources of two clinicians and a classroom aide to help ease the burden on classroom teachers and integrate students living with mental illness back into the school.
The program is able boast a 90% success rate of returning students back to regular classroom work without significant disruption following a psychiatric hospitalization. Additionally, Brookline High School has seen a marked decrease in the drop out rate for these students and a lower rate of referral to special education.
Clearly, a program like this does not come free. Initially, BRYT was funded through grants from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. However, because of the success of BRYT and cost savings resulting from decreased special education costs, the Brookline School Committee has fully funded the program for the last two school years.
Said one young woman who is a graduate of the program,
“My hope is that for all the students across the state awaiting discharge from psychiatric hospitals, that they have a program like BRYT there to catch them.”
And the blueprint of BRYT is spreading. Wellesley High School has implemented a similar program, called Bridge. Several other local high schools have expressed interest in the model.
In her introductory remarks, Representative Story said that she wants to see programs like BRYT in every large high school in the Commonwealth. Representative Story also announced that she will be offering a budget amendment later this year to allocate $300,000 for three new pilot initiatives modeled after BRYT.
As wonderful and effective as BRYT and Bridge are, we have a responsibility to our young people to make sure that all students in need of these services have access to them that is not dependent on the accident of their hometown. Chapter 321, An Act Relative to Children’s Mental Health, calls for the establishment of mental health consultative services to schools. It is encouraging that we have effective models already in place and that we do not have to completely invent the program from scratch.
Children’s Health Coordinator