The New Orleans Health Department began examining the City’s role in addressing behavioral health issues in 2011. With support and guidance from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Health Department formed the Behavioral Health Council (BHC). The Behavioral Health Council brings together providers, advocates and consumers from across the behavioral health community to facilitate coordination, advocate for policy change, influence funding, and communicate with the local community.
The Education Working Group of the Behavioral Health Council first launched the School Behavioral Health Survey in the Spring of 2012 and administered it annually through the 2019-20 school year. The School Behavioral Health Survey is an important tool to monitor the degree to which comprehensive and coordinated mental and behavioral health services are available in schools.
In 2019, the Health Department conducted a Community Health Assessment (CHA). Based on the assessment, they developed a Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) in February of 2022 to address several priorities, including behavioral health. The plan resulted in a reconfiguration of the Behavioral Health Council and a handoff of the 2021 – 22 School Behavioral Health Survey to the Coalition for Compassionate Schools (formerly the Trauma-Informed Schools Learning Collaborative). Results of the survey will be particularly relevant to the Behavioral Health Working Group of the CHIP, which has formed a subcommittee to focus on increasing the proportion of children and adolescents who receive evidence-based preventative mental health interventions in school.
Comprehensive mental and behavioral health services are essential to support positive academic, behavioral, and interpersonal outcomes for students. Because schools are the most efficient place for children to receive mental and behavioral health services, schools have assumed increased responsibility for and coordination of those services. This is especially true in relation to pandemic recovery efforts.
Louisiana received $4 billion for PreK – 12 pandemic academic recovery efforts through the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. School systems in the state were able to access these funds through multi-year Achieve! grants. Funds could be leveraged for a variety of activities “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” According to the Louisiana Department of Education public funding dashboard, about $395 million has been budgeted to support recovery efforts in Orleans Parish through 2024. Funds dedicated to support school mental and behavioral health services or to hire school mental health professionals are not explicitly specified within the dashboard. However, the dashboard does indicate that a little over $60 million in funds have been dedicated to support equitable and inclusive learning, including social emotional learning ($23 million) and strategies for diverse learners ($21 million). About $3 million in funds have been dedicated to family engagement and support.
The 2021-22 School Behavioral Health Survey was completed in the context of this increased funding to support pandemic recovery efforts. The survey focuses on the degree to which New Orleans public schools have in place a comprehensive mental and behavioral health service system that provides universal mental and behavioral health promotion in schools, early identification and intervention, targeted supports, and interagency collaboration to address the full range of student needs.
The New Orleans citywide youth survey was also conducted during the 2021-22 school year by the Educational Research Alliance. That survey captures students’ perceptions of teachers and schools, including their perceptions of school climate and safety and their own mental and behavioral health needs. Where relevant, results from the youth survey are referenced in this report.