Boldly Advancing Mental Health In Urban And Rural Schools

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Massachusetts School-Based Telebehavioral Health Project (THP)

Schools are the best place to connect, engage, and provide young people access to mental health services,” says Dr. Carolyn Castro-Donlan, Project Director of the Massachusetts School-Based Telebehavioral Health Project (THP), a pilot program of The Brookline Center, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Brandeis University. The pilot provides school-based telebehavioral health support to children in underserved urban and rural communities.  

Using voice and videoconferencing technology, THP provides K-12 students with support from an offsite therapist. In addition to facilitating therapy for students, the program addresses broader social and economic factors that can impede mental health and access to care. For example, the program can connect families experiencing housing or food insecurity with local resources, or work with providers to meet student and caregiver cultural and linguistic needs. 

Partnering with state agencies, school districts, and behavioral health service providers, the pilot highlights the importance of collaboration, policy advocacy, and a commitment to equity in overcoming barriers to mental health services in schools. “At the heart of our approach is the understanding that telehealth isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. We work closely with school districts and community members to meet their specific needs—it’s the key to making it all come together,” says Dr. Castro-Donlan. 

The pilot is off to a successful start. In 2023, more than 400 children and youth in 15 school districts received THP services. The Brookline Center’s Chief Operating Officer Dr. Funmi Aguocha, who oversees the program, says that school leaders have taken notice: “This was a service their students have always needed, and schools are thrilled to have the opportunity to provide it.”