Georgia Apex Project

About this Project

Mental health issues are common among today’s children and youth, and the first signs of mental or emotional distress often appear when a child is at school. Unmet mental health needs often negatively affect academic performance and the school environment. The Georgia Apex Project, supported by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), is a pilot program to build infrastructure and increase access to mental health services for school-aged youth throughout the state. The Georgia Apex program recognizes that schools are a natural environment for identification and intervention and aims to reduce the number of youth with unmet mental health needs. The project supports community mental health providers to partner with schools and provide school-based mental health programs, including professional development for school staff to increase early detection of mental health needs. In addition, the project increases coordination between local schools and the state’s community behavioral health system.

The Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health at the Georgia Health Policy Center provides technical assistance in the areas of program implementation, evaluation, and program sustainability to 29 Georgia Apex Project grantees. Evaluation data collected by the team are synthesized and presented to DBHDD to assist with project management and to assess outcomes. The Center of Excellence also completed an environmental scan of school-based mental health activities, both in Georgia and nationally. The report serves to inform a variety of stakeholders (state agencies, policymakers, mental health providers, schools, and families) of the benefits of school-based mental health services and lessons learned from past implementation efforts.

Related Information

Meet the Researchers

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Ann DiGirolamo

Research Assistant Professor, Associate Project Director
adigirolamo@gsu.edu
Education

Ph.D., Indiana University
M.P.H., Emory University
B.A., Emory University

Biography

Ann DiGirolamo is an associate project director at the Georgia Health Policy Center and director of the Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. DiGirolamo provides expertise in research, evaluation, workforce development, and policy related to child and… more »

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Susan McLaren

Senior Research Associate
smclaren@gsu.edu
Education

M.P.H., Emory University
B.S., Emory University

Biography

Susan McLaren is a senior research associate with the Georgia Health Policy Center. She leads the research and evaluation work for the Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health team. Her evaluation projects are related to children’s behavioral health, Systems of Care, Medicaid, Georgia’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, care coordination, program evaluation, and collaborative… more »

Ursula Davis

Ursula Davis

Senior Research Associate
udavis@gsu.edu
Education

Ph.D. candidate, Capella University
M.A., Argosy University
B.A., Clayton State University

Biography

Ursula Davis is part of the Georgia Health Policy Center’s Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health team. She brings with her experience in child welfare, mental health, program management, training, and strategic planning.

Davis is currently a Ph.D. candidate in advanced human behavior at Capella University. She also holds a license in professional… more »

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Deana Farmer

Senior Research Associate
dfarmer13@gsu.edu
Education

B.A., Wake Forest University

Biography

Deana Farmer is a co-leader of the Georgia Health Policy Center’s Community Health Systems Development team and coordinates the center’s activities for the Pipeline to Proposal Award Office for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute’s (PCORI’s) southern region. She brings with her experience in market research, communications planning, qualitative research, strategic planning, board and partnership… more »

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Jana Pruett Covington

Research Associate II
japruett@gsu.edu
Education

M.S.W., University of Georgia
B.A., Emory University

Biography

Jana Pruett Covington is a research associate II working on the Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health team. She has experience as both a researcher and as a clinical social worker.

Her research interests center on issues of service access for vulnerable populations, health care and behavioral health policy, program design, and resource… more »

Brandon Attell

Brandon Attell

Research Associate I
battell1@gsu.edu
Education

M.A., Georgia State University
B.S., Kennesaw State University

Biography

Brandon Attell is a research associate I at the Georgia Health Policy Center. His areas of expertise include mental health and stress, aging and life-course sociology, and quantitative methods.

Attell’s current projects at the center include evaluation and fidelity monitoring of High Fidelity Wraparound care coordination, school-based mental health, and evaluating community-based programs… more »