Bridges to Behavioral Wellness

Bridges to Behavioral Wellness

Georgia Appleseed is committed to dismantling the school to prison pipeline and keeping kids in class. To do this, it is essential to ensure children with mental illness, autism, and other intense needs receive necessary interventions and supports.

Georgia Appleseed's Bridges to Behavioral Wellness Project is working to improve these systems of care. It is also working to help families, educators, and advocates navigate these complex systems and advocate for improvements where there are gaps and barriers.

The Bridges to Behavioral Wellness Project recognizes that there are many different bridges that can lead to a child's behavioral wellness. There are also bridges that Georgia Appleseed can work with its partners to build to help families, school systems, and advocates receive necessary supports.

As part of this effort, Georgia Appleseed is working with pro bono attorneys and other advocates to create Behavioral Wellness and Advocacy Guides. Georgia Appleseed will also be working with local school climate committees that are required in each county across the state to improve children's behavioral health services and to integrate these services with PBIS. Georgia Appleseed will be hosting regional forums across the state to highlight best practices and engage local communities in conversations and advocacy to improve these systems and ensure children receive the supports they need.

Georgia is at a critical time to increase and improve its systems of care for children with behavior related impairments for the following reasons:

      1. School climate reform has reached an important tipping point with more than 50% of schools and school systems adopting Tier 1 Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports. The next phases, Tiers 2 and 3 of PBIS, require that supports exist for children with intensive behavioral needs and children who are "at risk." These are critical next steps to continue the success this reform has had in decreasing out of school suspensions and increasing graduation rates.
      2. From 2015 to 2018, the Georgia General Assembly made a significant investment in school based mental health (SBMH). Approximately 13% of schools will have SBMH. Now is an important time to determine how these services will be integrated with school discipline reform and other efforts to dismantle the school to prison pipeline. It is also important to determine ways in which services can be expanded to children in the majority of schools without SBMH. Georgia Apex, which is the main SBMH program, was specifically designed to match the tiered PBIS system.
      3. After the recent school shooting in Florida, law makers and educators have renewed efforts to ensure school safety. Each school is required to have a safety plan, and each safety plan requires schools to have identified relevant behavioral health services.
      4. In the 2018 Legislative Session, Georgia passed two important bills for children, but their success will depend on how they are implemented. The first bill, HB 740, requires that schools provide children who are in Kindergarten through Third Grade with supports prior to suspending them for more than five days. The second bill, HB 763, adds school climate reform to the responsibility of truancy committees that exist in each county and are made up of judicial, education, and law enforcement representatives. This fits directly in with Georgia Appleseed's Georgia Education Climate Coalition (GECC).
      5. Georgia has appropriated funding to ensure that children with autism who are on Medicaid receive necessary services. Unfortunately, significant barriers are keeping children from receiving these services.