School-Based Mental Health

With embedded mental health professionals in schools across the Anchorage School District, students face less barriers to accessing care at low or no cost.

VOA Alaska’s School-Based Services consist of an integrated model of care with the Anchorage School District (ASD). Qualified, committed, and experienced clinicians are based in various ASD sites to meet the need directly where our youth attend school. This integrated model with the school district combines education efforts with behavioral health support to promote the wellness of the youth in the community.

Students have access to integrated assessments, drug and alcohol education, crisis intervention, individual and family therapy, and mental health and substance use counseling. Students are taught life and coping skills and feelings and behavior management skills to improve their ability to function within and outside of the school setting. Case management and care coordination are also provided to support the student and their family, as well as linking them to needed resources and positive social activities in their home community. 

This effort is supported through our partnership with Providence Alaska, Anchorage School District, Anchorage School-Based Health Centers, and ASD Alternative Schools.

We are so fortunate to have VOA Alaska mental health school-based services at ASD.
It's an important service our students greatly benefit from.

John Kito, Principal, Tyson Elementary

Why School Based?

Across the country, decades of research show that schools are our communities’ primary site for providing consistent, accessible behavioral health and wellbeing services to children and adolescents.

  • Unmet Mental Health Needs

    80% of youth with mental health diagnoses have unmet mental health needs. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Alaskan teens.

  • Preventing Pain & Suffering

    Untreated mental health challenges can cause a lifetime of unnecessary pain and suffering. Worse yet, they can result in death.

  • Early Intervention

    Intervening early is critical, given that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and three-fourths by age 24.

  • Direct Access to Care

    Access to school-based mental health services directly improves students’ physical and psychological safety, academic performance, and social-emotional learning.

Meeting the Need

Alaska’s teenage suicide rate is the highest in the nation and has been for more than a decade.

These tragic losses are the result of overwhelming hopelessness and it’s predicted that suicide attempts will increase due to social isolation and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. By providing help and hope to youth wherever they are, we can ensure they are given the right level of care at the right time.

You can help Alaska’s youth grow into the bright and unique individuals they were born to become by supporting their success now and in the future. No single funding source can support all the mental health needs of students and their families. Federal, state, and community-level resources must be leveraged with other funding streams to ensure we are meeting the needs of our youth.

66% of service hours provided by VOA Alaska’s school-based clinicians are for non-billable activities, such as crisis support, teacher trainings, and resource navigation.

Expanding Access to Behavioral Health

VOA Alaska, in partnership with Providence Alaska and the Anchorage School District, has the following goals for our coordinated effort to expand existing school-based services and further integrate with ASD academic culture. In doing so, we will promote earlier behavioral health intervention, support, and services, resulting in an improvement of overall well-being for those we have been called to serve.

Together we will:

  1. Provide behavioral health services and supports to referred students and their families
  2. Provide navigation and support for referring youth and their families to valuable community-based resources for long-term care through involvement and participation in ASD’s Crisis Response Team.
  3. Provide district-wide referral pathway for support and behavioral health consultation services.
  4. Provide training and behavioral health support to students, families, educators, and school staff.

Guiding Principals

Trauma Informed. A trauma informed approach is used to guide policy, program development, and practice.

Climate of Well-Being. All stakeholders are unified by shared goals, with mental health and academic progress valued equally. School climate is supportive of integrated behavioral health services, which are seen as a critical and integral part of reaching academic and wellness goals.

Best Practice. Implemented strategies are evidenced-based and built on best practices that have proven to support children’s success at school. Consistent clinical models will be used across schools to allow for replication and scalability.

Integration. Behavioral health and wellness is integrated into the school climate, not seen as a separate scope, and is supported through building a collaborative partnership between school personnel and service providers.

Community Collaboration. All stakeholders cultivate and encourage collaboration with community members and partners to provide additional services as part of a coordinated service delivery system.

Identify Conflict and Seek Solutions. Partners promote an environment which seeks to find solutions for barriers and points of conflict. Partners agree to positively navigate relationships with the aim of resolving conflict when it occurs.

It’s the best kind of feeling when you can partner with a client to initiate real change in real time with real situations as an integrated member of the school community,”

Julie Falle, School-Based Clinician

Together we can make a difference.

This program is supported by a CARES Act grant from the Municipality of Anchorage.