Source: The Trentonian
The Mercer High School, part of the Mercer County Special Services School District, along with Burlington County’s Allen Elementary School and Medford Memorial Middle School, are three of 50 schools enlisted in a program announced earlier this week by Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) called the Enhancing School Mental Health Services Project, a pioneering initiative to bolster mental health support services in New Jersey schools.
The DOE, in partnership with the Rutgers University Center for Comprehensive School Mental Health, is set to provide three years of rigorous training to staff in the selected schools. This training will empower them to establish a robust tiered system of mental health supports for students.
Guided by the expertise of the Rutgers University Center for Comprehensive School Mental Health, these 50 schools will undergo intensive training in evidence-based practices and strategies to enhance mental health support services. Previously, mental health services were often managed on a case-by-case basis in some districts. However, this initiative aims to provide a comprehensive, schoolwide system to effectively identify and address mental health concerns.
Rutgers trainers will collaborate with school teams consisting of educators, counselors, school psychologists, social workers, administrators, and other staff members. These teams will assess their school’s mental health approach, identify areas for improvement, explore ongoing training opportunities, establish best practices for identifying struggling students, evaluate potential partnerships with community mental health agencies, and enhance the school’s counseling and support services.
“This collaboration represents a significant step in fostering a more resilient and empathetic educational system in New Jersey,” said Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education. “Implementing a tiered system of mental health supports equips more New Jersey schools with the tools necessary to foster a culture of care and understanding for students. By partnering with Rutgers University Center for Comprehensive School Mental Health, more New Jersey educators will be supported and empowered to effectively identify and address mental health needs, ensuring that every child receives the support they deserve to thrive academically and emotionally.”
Governor Murphy’s commitment to youth mental health is evident in his previous initiatives, including the Statewide Mental Health Working Group formed in February 2020. This group brought together stakeholders from various roles to develop resources supporting students’ mental health needs. The collaborative effort resulted in the New Jersey Comprehensive School Mental Health Resource Guide, released in February 2022.
The launch of the Enhancing School Mental Health Services Project marks the next phase following the creation of the Resource Guide. It builds upon the Murphy Administration’s ongoing efforts to address youth mental health and provide crucial support to students throughout New Jersey.