In the recently signed FY 2023 Michigan state budget, the Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students (TRAILS) school mental health program received $50 million to expand services to more schools.
The funding will allow the program to modify how they engage with schools, increase utilization of technology, train and hire more coaches, and to create the most cost effective model possible.
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The TRAILS program provides schools with materials, consultations, training, and implementation support to expand prevention and early intervention measures for student mental health. The program was born in 2013 at the University of Michigan in an effort to integrate evidence-based intervention practices for mental health and implementation into schools to support struggling students.
“I got really excited about this idea of marrying [the] best mental health research in terms of interventions that are effective for the most common mental health concerns and designing a model that would help equip schools, social workers, counselors, teachers, athletic coaches, student support personnel broadly to deliver practices to students that are effective, impactful, and efficient,” said Elizabeth Koschmann, Founder and Executive Director of TRAILS.
The program partners with 50 of Michigan’s 56 school districts and delivers programming to over 700 schools. TRAILS offers consulting to all school professionals and educational materials to help school professionals support the mental health of their students and give them needed care before a mental health concern turns into a crisis.
To do this, the program offers 3 pillars. Tier 1 gives teachers a K-12 curriculum to teach students how to manage struggles throughout life, including managing conflict, and making responsible decisions. The goal is to give students these skills and bring awareness to mental health concerns early so a student knows when to reach out for help.
“There’s really strong data that shows that when you take an academic environment and you blend in some of these social and emotional skills to the classroom, you’ll see broad improvements on academic achievement attainment, reduced absenteeism, better classroom behavior, some of the goals in that Tier 1 program,” Koschmann said.
Tier 2 provides training to aid school professionals and how to conduct early intervention sessions with students who might be undergoing mental health issues. This includes training for all types of sessions and different formats.
The written materials and information provided in their tier are also publicly available on their website for free to anyone to use, without the included training. Koschmann said a huge aspect to their program is to make these materials available for all so anyone can try these intervention practices on their students.
“So the public funding from the state really aligns with the public health approach that we don’t want people to have to spend their precious dollars,” Koschmann said.
Tier 3 helps schools identify and screen students who might be at risk for suicide and provide crisis stabilization services at school. This tier helps schools coordinate with community-based organizations and clinics to connect students to those resources.
The $50 million will allow the TRAILS to partner with the state to expand the program through funding.