School-Based Mental Health Programs Impacting Georgia Schools, Students

School-based mental health programs have positive outcomes for students, their families, and their schools, according to evaluation results from the first year of the Georgia Apex Program.

During the 2015-2016 school year, the program, administered by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Office of Children, Young Adults, and Families, built capacity and infrastructure to increase school-based mental health services.

In Year 1, 29 community-based behavioral health providers partnered with 136 local schools (elementary, middle, and high schools) throughout the state to provide behavioral health services. On average, the program served more than 900 students each month. The vast majority of behavioral health services were provided in the school setting.

“Over the first year, the program increased access to care for more than 2,400 students who had not previously received behavioral health services,” says Ann DiGirolamo, Ph.D., GHPC’s director of behavioral health. “School-based mental health programs have been shown to have positive, school-wide effects. Improving attendance and decreasing discipline referrals and course failures for individual students, in turn, minimizes classroom disruptions, betters the overall school climate, and decreases mental health stigma.”