Implementing Expanded School Mental Health in West Virginia

Caring schools seek to address student mental health needs to encourage learning, increase positive classroom behavior, avoid discipline referrals, and promote school safety. School administrators and counselors often ask, “Where do I begin?” Research demonstrates that the best approach is a systemic, comprehensive approach of addressing school mental health that includes prevention, early intervention, and therapy.

This page serves as a quick guide for a cross-systems, collaborative, integrated process where schools and strategic community partners plan and work together using a deliberate, ongoing process to comprehensively address student mental health needs by expanding upon programs and systems already in place.


Recommended Steps

Step 1: Seek information about Expanded School Mental Health (ESMH) and school-wide wellness approaches.

Spend time on this website learning about the WV Expanded School Mental Health Initiative. Develop an understanding of the three tier model, and explore the many resources and learning opportunities shared here. Print and share the WV Expanded School Mental Health document with school staff and stakeholders.

Additional Resources:

Step 2: Assemble a cross-systems leadership team and build support for your ESMH initiative

Assemble a team of student support advocates from within the school (administrators, counselors, teachers, nurse, psychologist, parents, dropout prevention specialist, SAT coordinator) to help champion support among all school staff. If your school has a WVTSS team in place, ensure they participate in your ESMH leadership team. Invite community stakeholders to join the cross-systems team that will plan and support the ESMH efforts.  Your community stakeholders may include mental and primary health care providers, businesses, parents, youth, potential funders, and prevention coalitions.

Commit to regular, ongoing planning meetings and address challenges as they arise. Refer to our Leadership Teaming Guide for best practices.

 Resources to identify possible stakeholders in your county:

  • The WVDoHS Bureau for Behavioral Healththe federally designated State Authority for mental health and substance use disorders provides funding announcements, events, and more.
  • Handle with Care – promotes school-community partnerships to support children who are exposed to trauma. Contact persons for each county are listed.
  • Help4WV – provides a comprehensive list of state resources including children’s crisis response providers.
  • Help & Hope WV – lists the Prevention Lead Organizations for every WV region
  • The WV Primary Care Association – includes contact information for all West Virginia safety-net health care providers.
  • WV Family Resource Network (FRN) –  partner with community members and public and private organizations to provide needed resources for their local areas.
  • WV Communities in Schools (CIS) – builds lasting community relationships with businesses, volunteers, agencies, healthcare providers, and educators to help students stay focused today, so they can go further tomorrow.

Step 3: Connect with ESMH sites already implementing

Reach out to MUSHTAC to find ESMH sites successfully implementing to arrange a site visit or meeting. If visiting the site, take as many of your ESMH leadership team members as available. Prepare a list of questions in advance related to questions and concerns you have.

During site visits ask questions related to:

  • Composition and Functioning of ESMH Leadership Team
  • Needs Assessments
  • Memorandums of Agreement
  • HIPAA & FERPA considerations
  • Use of data
  • Referral & follow-up process
  • Collaborative efforts between stakeholders to support students

Step 4: Consider feasibility of success in a given school

Before committing, determine if your school has community parters, including a mental health provider, that is willing to collaborate. Ensure that at least one person at the school level is willing to act as a coordinator for implementation. Staff buy-in is paramount.  Will the school staff and administration support the effort?

Evaluate logistics such as office space, internet access for electronic health record access, and telephone service. Determine if there are any funding streams to support the effort.

Step 5: Establish operational guidelines for all partnerships


It is vital to maintain good relationships between all partners involved in implementing your ESMH initiative.  This is best accomplished with open communication, shared goals, and defining clear roles and responsibilities.

Schools and partners need to have a detailed Memorandum of Understanding that covers:

  • Confidentiality (HIPAA & FERPA) and record sharing
  • Reimbursement for treatment services
  • Student right to medically necessary services
  • Responsibilities for provision of Tier 1 and Tier 2 services
  • In kind or matching funds
  • Logistics
  • Hours and days of operation

Sample MOU (link to page/post)

Step 6: Assess student needs and school structures currently in place

Use a systematic process existing and improve the quality of mental health services already delivered within your school. Evaluate existing school policies, services, and processes that support implementation of ESMH.

The Marshall University School Health Technical Assistance Center facilitates a full needs assessment and prioritization process for all WVBBH ESMH and WVDE Project AWARE grantees. For help with your needs assessment, contact us for further information.

Some schools may also use the School Health Assessment and Performance Evaluation System (SHAPE).

 Assess existing school processes including:

  • Consider your WVTSS framework. What services are currently in place at each tier? What are the gaps? What are the successes, challenges, and resources at our school?
  • Your school’s use of Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS)
  • Student Assistance Team (SAT) processes and performance
  • Your school’s Comprehensive School Counseling Program
  • Inclusion of mental health in your school’s strategic plan
  • Coordination of referring students for mental health and social services
  • Professional development that includes student mental health topics

Step 7: Develop and regularly review an ESMH strategic plan

A clear, well-constructed ESMH strategic plan is a living document that guides implementation and supports the school’s strategic plan. It can also serve as the basis for funding proposals to submit to agencies, foundations, grantors or other funders with shared goals for the community.

Projects funded through WVBBH’s ESMH and WVDE Project AWARE grants receive full support from MUSHTAC to develop a strategic plan. Funded projects must select and implement at least two evidence-based programs at Tier 1 and 2. They also must ensure that they select programs that address substance use and suicide prevention.


Strategic plans should include:

  • short and long term time-limited goals
  • services to be provided at each tier
  • processes for selecting and implementing evidence-based programs
  • roles and responsibilities of school and agency partners
  • universal screening
  • referral and follow-up processes
  • parental consent processes
  • funding and sustainability
  • family engagement strategies

Step 8: Secure funding

Expanded School Mental Health initiatives generally rely on a mix of funding sources including local school funds, state and federal block grants, foundations and reimbursement from third party insurers.

The WV Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan includes funding at the state and county level that could be used to support implementation of ESMH.

WV Department of Education county-level funding streams:

  • Title 1, Part A, Subpart :1 Improving Basic Programs
  • Title V, Part B, Subpart 2: Rural and Low-Income School Program
  • Title I, Part D: Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk
  • Title IV, Part B: (contains substantial language about ESMH)
  • Title VII, Subpart B of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act: Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program IDEA (Special Ed)
  • School bonds and levies (vary from county to county)

Step 9: Develop a Data Management Plan

Your ESMH leadership team will have access to several sources of data that should be used for decision-making, evaluation, and reporting. Use your data to share progress, successes, and challenges with stakeholders to garner support.

State- and county-level data sources:

School/Provider data sources:

    • ZoomWV Dashboard – used to track attendance, discipline, grades, and assessments
    • WV School Learning Environment Survey (available from your school or county Board of Education if completed)
    • Mental Health Agency – caseload, sessions provided, prevalence of diagnoses, billing, client satisfaction survey results
    • Program/Service data – number of doses or sessions provided, number of students participating