1. Brady, Joan M. DNS, RN

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This presentation explores the evolution of a western New York county school support program through the lens of Complexity Science. The outcomes at one school, thrust into the edge of chaos by 2 student suicides in November 2002, will be highlighted.



National Institute of Mental Health Web site reports suggest that up to 50% of lifetime mental illness has its onset by age 14. The illness burden borne by children and their families has been described as a health crisis.



Fewer than half of the children in need of mental health treatment receive it. School Support is a New York state initiative designed to meet this need by embedding services in the community and forming partnerships with the school system/mental health services/family support services.



Since August 2001, a western New York county mental health department has joined with 5 schools to provide counseling, crisis intervention, and student and family support services to students with serious mental health needs.



As of November 2004, 3 School Support programs were in operation. Displaying the property of distributed control, each program was allowed to evolve according to the unique resources and needs of the community. One of these programs developed into a free-standing mental health clinic and reported improved attendance and retention rates for at-risk students who received School Support services. Additionally, grade improvement for about 9% of the students was noted, and there was a 25% decrement in serious disciplinary offenses.



Partnership with key school personnel and families appears crucial to program success-an exemplar of the property of relationships/interactions.