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Professional News
School Screenings Successful in Identifying At-Risk Teens
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 18 page 7-7

Mental health screenings conducted at high schools are helping at-risk students access needed treatment, although those referred for community-based services are less likely to follow through.

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At-risk teenagers are being connected with appropriate follow-up treatment through routine, in-school mental health screenings, according to new research published in the September Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The study of nearly 2,500 high-school students revealed that more than 73 percent of those teens identified as being at risk for mental illness were not receiving any treatment prior to the screenings. The remainder of at-risk students were receiving some form of mental health care.

Mathilde Husky, Ph.D., of the New York State Psychiatric Institute at Columbia University led a research team in evaluating screenings conducted at six public high schools in suburban Wisconsin from 2005 to 2009. Participating students were screened using a computerized questionnaire provided by Columbia's TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups, with those deemed at risk (nearly 20 percent) receiving further on-site evaluation by a school psychologist, community mental health psychologist, or clinical social worker.

After consultation with the students' parents or legal guardians, who had previously consented to the screenings, the clinicians recommended one of three courses of follow-up treatment for those deemed at risk and not currently in treatment: school-based mental health services, community-based services, or a combination of both.

Seventy-four percent of the total referrals made were for school-based services, while teens identified as posing the most active risk to themselves (approximately 57 percent) were more commonly referred to community-based services.

The researchers noted that more than 76 percent of the students referred for additional services attended at least one follow-up visit, while more than 57 percent attended three or more follow-up treatment sessions. However, of those teens referred for any follow-up services, twice as many followed through with accessing school-based services than did those referred to community-based treatment.

The researchers concluded that while school-based mental health screenings are a valuable resource for connecting at-risk teens with needed treatment, more work needs to be done in helping students with the most serious problems obtain community-based services. 7_2.inline-graphic-1.gif

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