Georgia Apex Program

About this Project

Mental health concerns are common among today’s children and youth, and the first signs of mental or emotional distress may appear when a child is at school. Unmet mental health needs often negatively affect academic performance and the school environment. The Georgia Apex Program, supported by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), builds infrastructure and increases 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 program supports community mental health providers to partner with schools and provide school-based mental health services, including direct student services, professional development for school staff, and opportunities for mental health promotion and awareness . The Apex Program’s goals are to increase access to youth mental health services, to provide early detection of mental health needs in childhood and adolescence, and to strengthen coordination between community-based mental health providers and local schools.

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 31 Georgia Apex Program providers. Data collected by the evaluation team are synthesized and presented to DBHDD to assist with project management and to assess outcomes.

In the pre-implementation phase, the Center of Excellence also completed an environmental scan of school-based mental health activities, both in Georgia and nationally. The report informed 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

Ann DiGirolamo

Research Associate Professor, Director of Behavioral Health
adigirolamo@gsu.edu
Education

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

Biography

Ann DiGirolamo is the director of behavioral health at the Georgia Health Policy Center and director of the Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health. She is a research associate professor in the School of Social Work at Georgia State and an adjunct faculty member at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. DiGirolamo… more »

Susan McLaren

Assistant Project Director
smclaren@gsu.edu
Education

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

Biography

Susan McLaren is an assistant project director 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 »

Dimple Desai

Research Associate II
ddesai@gsu.edu
Education

M.S.W., Georgia State University
B.S., Georgia College & State University

Biography

Dimple Desai is a research associate II at the Georgia Health Policy Center supporting research and evaluation efforts within the Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health. Her areas of expertise are in program development as well as coordinating research and evaluation studies. She has significant experience in providing training and technical assistance to public… more »

Rachel Campos

Senior Research Associate
rcampos1@gsu.edu
Education

M.P.H., Tulane University
B.A., University of New Orleans

Biography

Rachel Campos is part of the Georgia Health Policy Center’s Community Health Systems Development team. She brings with her expertise in planning, implementing, and evaluating health promotion programs in both the public and private sectors.

Campos provides technical assistance to rural health initiatives across the country with a focus on building their capacity and long-term… more »

Deana Farmer

Assistant Project Director
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 development,… more »

Lisa McGarrie

Senior Research Associate
lmcgarrie@gsu.edu
Education

M.S.W., University of Maryland Baltimore
B.S., University of Maryland College Park

Biography

Lisa McGarrie is a senior research associate with the Georgia Health Policy Center’s Community Health Systems Development team. Her interests include health and behavioral health care access, health care system delivery reform and integration, and program development and implementation.

McGarrie has specialized experience in behavioral health care systems, including financing, policy development, and evaluation of… more »

Private: Hailey Reid

Research Associate II
hreid3@gsu.edu
Education

M.P.H., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
M.A., Brandeis University
B.A., University of Colorado at Boulder

Biography

Hailey Reid is a research associate at the Georgia Health Policy Center and a member of the Community Health Systems Development team. She brings skills in program evaluation design, implementation, analysis, and reporting. She has experience and interest in translational research, youth suicide prevention, and school-based health and behavioral health initiatives.

Reid provides technical assistance… more »

Chidinma Ogojiaku

Research Coordinator I
cogojiaku@gsu.edu
Education

B.A., Vanderbilt University

Biography

Chidinma Ogojiaku is a research coordinator I within the Georgia Health Policy Center’s Center of Excellence for Children’s Behavioral Health. She works on both workforce development and research and evaluation.

Ogojiaku’s current projects include the Georgia Apex Program, a partnership between community-based mental health providers and local schools to provide school-based mental health… more »