Kaiser Permanente awards $3.4 million for mental health support in schools

Kaiser Permanente Washington recently awarded $3.4 million in grants to 6 schools districts in Western Washington to address the mental health needs of students through an integrated approach. The funding will be used toward building and establishing a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) for mental health in the districts’ schools.


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MTSS is a systematic approach for delivering services that focuses on prevention, early identification, and connections to services. The goal of the MTSS framework is to connect academic and non-academic supports and services in schools and in the community to better serve all students.

Highline Public Schools and Northwest Educational Services District were awarded two $1.5 million, 3-years grants to build out MTSS for mental health in their schools. The other $400,000 in grant money will go to Bellingham, Kent, Tenino, and North Thurston districts to establish the framework for the MTSS model.

In the MTSS model, the level of support increases from one tier to the next.

Image: Kaiser Permanente Washington


In the framework above, Tier 1 is provided universally to all students and focuses on screenings and promoting mental health and wellness in schools. Tier 2 is more selective and might involve evidence-based small group interventions. In Tier 3, those interventions become more intensive and might involve individual therapy and more in-depth support.

“Establishing a clear process for varying levels of support that connect students, families, teachers and staff with community resources will be powerful,” said Clint Carlton, Director, Special Programs and Services, for the Mount Vernon School District in a prepared statement.

A recent K-12 mental health and wellness environmental scan commissioned by Kaiser served as the basis for the grant design. The report notes that 1 in 5 children (ages 13-16) will experience, or have experienced, a significant mental health problem during their educational years. It also states that depressive feelings and thoughts of suicide among 10th graders have increased over the past 6 years in Washington, with 1 in 5 considering suicide in 2016.

The report recommends utilizing the MTSS framework to better identify and support students with mental health needs and connect them to services.  

“Connecting with children and adolescents in safe spaces, like schools, enables earlier detection, intervention and support in addressing mental health issues,” says Dr. Ashok Shimoji-Krishnan, Kaiser Permanente child psychiatrist. “This approach also creates awareness and decreases stigma around getting help for mental health concerns.”