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Home » Student Success » Health & Safety » Mental, Social, & Behavioral Health » Behavioral Health Resource Guide

Behavioral Health Resource Guide

Behavioral Health is the promotion of mental health, resilience, and wellbeing; the treatment of mental and substance use disorders; and the support of those who experience and/or are in recovery from these conditions, along with their families and communities (US Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration).

OSPI Behavioral Health Programs

7-Step Guide

This guide will help school staff assess and respond to students’ behavioral health needs: Prepare, Assess, Seek, Fund, Implement, Evaluate, and Share.


Assemble a team to develop the school's behavioral health action plan. Members of this team may include:
  • School Administrators
  • School Counselors
  • School Social Workers
  • School Psychologists
  • School Nurses
  • Classroom Educators
  • Paraprofessionals
  • Community Providers
  • Families
  • Students, as appropriate

Meet regularly throughout the year. At the first team meeting, develop the mission and goals for the group. Answer this question as a team: "What do we need to accomplish as a team this year?”

Key Resource:
National Center for School Mental Health - Teaming Guide


Learn more about the needs and assets of your current system. Review data, such as:
  • Local Healthy Youth Survey results
  • School Climate Survey data
  • Attendance Data
  • Discipline Data
  • Nurse and Counselor Visit Data
  • Youth and Family Perceptual Data

Document the behavioral health systems and services that are already running in your school. This includes:

  • Behavioral health service providers operating within the school building
  • Social Emotional Learning
  • Schoolwide prevention and intervention services

Celebrate those items that are already in place! Prioritize and drive energy into the places where you find gaps. Keep in mind that the data you use to assess your needs could be the same data you use to monitor progress later in your implementation evaluation and refinement.

Key Resource:
The School Health Assessment and Performance Evaluation (SHAPE) System

Identify solutions. Intervention could look like adding behavioral health services. You may decide to contract or partner with a community-based provider to offer services within the building. You may also bolster classroom content across grade levels related to social emotional learning, behavioral health, and youth development. The path you choose will fit with the needs you've uncovered in the Assess stage. 

Key Resources:
OSPI Behavior Menu of Best Practice
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Program Guides
National Center for Intensive Intervention - Behavioral Tools
Washington K-12 Health Learning Standards
Washington SEL Standards, Benchmarks, and Indicators
Washington Student Assistance Program
Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention
Multi-Tiered Systems of Support
LifeSkills Training Substance Abuse Prevention Grant
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
School Counseling


Funding new school programs can be challenging. Consider your needs:
  • Are you hoping to send staff to a specific training about behavioral health content?
  • Do you need a universal curriculum that supports behavioral health foundations, like social skills training or PAX Good Behavior Game?
  • Have the data guided you to consider contracting with a behavioral health service provider?
  • Have you uncovered a need for an overarching systems approach to supporting students through MTSS?

Different approaches may be supported by different funding streams. The OSPI Unlocking Federal and State Program Funds to Support Student Success document will help you utilize the funding you already have in allowable ways to meet students' needs.

You may consider writing behavioral health goals and activities into your school improvement plan and utilize school improvement funds to support students' behavioral health.

Behavioral health services may be reimbursed by student insurance. This is determined on a case by case basis; contact a provider for more information about service eligibility.

Key Resources:
OSPI’s Behavioral Health School Improvement Planning Tool
Unlocking State and Federal Program Funds
Health Care Authority - Medicaid Administrative Claiming
Health Care Authority - School-Based Health Care Services
School-based Health Care in Washington


It's time to put all your planning into practice! Critical questions to address are:
  • How will the system implementers collaborate?
  • Will the teaming structures support continual progress monitoring and intervention alignment?
  • Do you have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with all community-based service providers that will be working in the school building?
  • Have you consulted with your district legal counsel regarding the laws about confidentiality, HIPPA, and FERPA?

Key Resources:
School Based Mental Health Referral Pathways Toolkit
Sample Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)


Look back at the data you evaluated in the Assess module. Knowing what you know now, how can you adapt your system to meet students' needs more efficiently in the next evolution of supports?
  • Has anything changed or evolved?
  • Have you uncovered any new or emerging needs?
  • Does your tiered system need to be adjusted for inefficiencies or gaps in programming?
  • Are some students missing out on needed services?
  • Are some students finding success with an intervention and should be graduated to a lower level of support?   

Key Resource:
Initiative Alignment Tool - Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

Share the great work you're doing. The more informed your community members are, the more they can partner to support your efforts.

Consider web platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and school websites. Don't forget about newsletters, notes home, and presentations at local, state, and national conferences to connect with other districts and share your lessons learned.

Always keep student privacy and confidentiality in mind when sharing any information that may be personally identifiable.