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.