Prioritizing Mental Health Together
Updated: Nov 2, 2021
It’s no secret that mental health is one of the biggest challenges students encounter in high school. Studies have shown that over 50% of high school students with emotional and behavioral issues drop out, making it the highest dropout rate of any disability group. To offer students attending Bethlehem Area School District’s Liberty High School the support they need, Communities In Schools of Eastern Pennsylvania teamed up with Pinebrook Family Answers’ School-based Integrated Behavioral Health services.
School-based Integrated Behavioral Health is a treatment model that places Pinebrook’s behavioral health clinicians in local schools to quickly provide assessment and intervention, limiting additional student stress. Pinebrook’s staff can immediately address issues and treatment by linking the student and their families to services in the school setting.
When Liberty HS teachers or peers notice a student struggling either academically or personally, they can recommend that student to the school’s Student Assistance Process. Once a student’s name is sent through the process, Nancy Ettwein, site coordinator for Communities in Schools of Eastern PA, evaluates the student’s situation to determine which program best fits their needs. If mental health is the primary concern, Nancy connects the student to Pinebrook’s clinical supervisor at Liberty for treatment.
“The collaboration between Communities In Schools of Eastern Pennsylvania and Pinebrook Family Answers is fantastic. The students receive opportunities to seek assistance that they may not otherwise have due to lack of insurance or other personal barriers, and they know they are not alone,” said Ettwein. “Mental health can be a huge obstacle to overcome, and I’m proud our organizations are collaborating to help students combat their difficulties.”
Pinebrook Family Answers has one lead clinician and three certified therapists on-site at Liberty. Each takes a hands-on approach to aid students in coping with mental health hurdles, including but not limited to anxiety, depression, and stress.
In the 2020-2021 school year, Ettwein referred approximately 300 students to Pinebrook. Of those referred, about 100 worked with a specialist to develop coping techniques and reach personal goals. That number is expected to increase in the 2021-2022 school year thanks to more freedom for meeting in person and Covid-19 repercussions.
"Working closely with Nancy has helped us be sure our students receive the services that will best suit their needs,” reflected Robin Sorensen, clinical supervisor at Liberty HS. “It’s important to match them with a Pinebrook clinician who can begin to establish a working therapeutic relationship and help our students to heal."
“Most students greatly appreciate going through the process. If at any time they decide they no longer wish to continue, we immediately stop,” said Ettwein.
At the end of the day, if a student can take what they learn and apply it to their problem-solving, we consider that a success.