Newswise — There are plenty of evidence-based behavioral health programs aimed at helping children and adolescents, but implementing those programs can often take up to three years and sustaining them can be even more difficult once implemented.

Brandy Clarke, Ph.D., would like to change that.
As associate clinical director with the Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska (BHECN) at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Dr. Clarke recently received a $500,000 grant aimed at providing training and technical assistance to practitioners, educators and others involved with school mental health.
The grant is a one-year supplement to the five-year $3.4 million Mid-American Mental Health Technology & Transfer Center grant that BHECN recently received. Dr. Clarke is a co-project director of the grant.
This grant, she said, will help provide the tools and knowledge of the steps it takes to roll out an intervention or other school mental health program effectively and address barriers.
"Having enough staff and level of training, funding and resources to sustain it once a program is begun, those are often common barriers," said Dr. Clarke, who also is an assistant professor of psychology at the Munroe-Meyer Institute.
The grant also will provide training on: 

  • How to address behavior issues;
  • Identify risk for suicide; and
  • Identify when youth need support for anxiety and depression.

"There is no one cookie-cutter approach," Dr. Clarke said. "Every school district is different. For these programs to work and become sustainable, it takes dedication and planning, which is what we hope to support through the grant."
Addressing the significant behavioral and mental health issues children present with in the school setting is of the utmost importance, said Mark Shriver, Ph.D., professor of pediatric psychology at the Munroe-Meyer Institute.
"As pediatric behavioral health providers we recognize that children spend the majority of their day in school settings. There are many excellent mental health providers in schools, such as school psychologists, nurses, social workers, and counselors, but there remains a need for the building capacity of these providers and to implement systemic supports in educational settings that will help with early identification and intervention to prevent or mitigate serious behavioral and mental health issues," Dr. Shriver said.
BHECN was created in 2009 when the Nebraska legislature passed LB 603 to address the statewide crisis in mental health access. Since then, BHECN has received two national awards and is considered a best practice for innovative programs to recruit and retain licensed mental health professionals in rural and urban communities. Housed at UNMC, BHECN has a unique partnership with all of the graduate behavioral health training programs in Nebraska and is dedicated to improving access to behavioral health care across the state. For more information about BHECN, visit or follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
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