Report Provides Guidance for School Districts and State Policymakers to Address Students’ Trauma & Mental Health Needs

It is described as a “framework to advance policy and strategic school district planning to more effectively address the mental health and trauma needs of students and promote student success.”  A new report, driven by research highlighting the connection between mental health and educational outcomes, is aimed at school districts looking to increase integration of student mental health services and supports. The 40-page report, developed by The Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut (CHDI), a subsidiary of the Children’s Fund of Connecticut, in partnership with the national Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland, provides a framework for policymakers and school districts interested in improving outcomes by addressing the mental health and trauma needs of students. The report indicates that “in a typical classroom of 25 students, approximately five will meet criteria for a mental health disorder but most of them are not receiving appropriate mental health treatment or support. Among those who do access care, approximately 70 percent receive services through their schools.”

Connecticut is cited as an example of how states can promote collaborations within and across the behavioral health, education, and juvenile justice systems to provide an array of trauma-informed, evidence-based, and tiered services for students.  It notes that school principals indicate that mental health is one of the most challenging unmet needs among their students and schools are increasingly seen as a critical setting for the delivery of mental health services.

The report provides “a blueprint and resources to guide state policymakers and school district leaders," including:

  • an overview of core components of the Comprehensive School Mental Health
  • Systems (CSMHS) model structured around family-school-community partnerships and the delivery of evidence-based mental health services within a multi-tiered system of supports;
  • examples of best practice strategies to develop, implement, and sustain CSMHS;
  • a model for a trauma-informed multi-tiered system of supports for school mental health;
  • creative approaches to advance policy and funding structures to sustain CSMHS; and
  • recommendations for state-level policymakers, districts, and schools to advance a comprehensive statewide system of school mental health to improve outcomes for all students.

“Approaching student mental health with a comprehensive lens that integrates health promotion, prevention, early intervention, and more intensive treatments leads to better school, student and community outcomes," said Dr. Sharon Hoover, Co-Director of the Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland and lead author of the report.

National prevalence rates indicate that approximately 20 percent of children meet criteria for a mental health disorder; however, many children’s mental health needs are not identified and the majority of children with identified challenges do not receive services, the report explained.  Among those who do access care, approximately 70 percent receive services through their schools. Linking children to services through their schools reduces many traditional barriers to care. School mental health services are also associated with higher completion rates than treatment delivered in traditional outpatient community-based settings.

The report uses Stamford Public Schools (SPS) as a” local model for improving outcomes by adopting a trauma informed approach to school mental health.” CHDI began working with SPS in 2014 to conduct a review of the district’s mental health system and to develop a plan to enhance trauma-informed mental health services district-wide.  That plan was subsequently implemented, and “lessons learned in Stamford are being used to engage other Connecticut districts to … integrate school and community-based mental health services, and promote quality and sustainability of these enhancements.”

“Schools are well positioned to promote wellness and social emotional competence for all students, as well as identify and address mental health concerns for students in need,” said Dr. Jeana Bracey, Director of School and Community Initiatives at CHDI and report co-author. “However, the responsibility is not on schools alone to integrate or fund these supports. This framework helps districts connect to and collaborate with Connecticut’s robust network of trauma-informed state and community-based services and programs so all students can be successful.”

The report concludes that a “systematic and streamlined partnership between families, schools, and communities to support a continuum of mental health supports in schools can lead to better behavioral health for all students, as well as increased access, earlier identification and intervention, and ultimately better outcomes for students with mental health challenges.”

[Visit to download the IMPACT report or to read more about CHDI’s work related to school mental health.]

Putnam High School Student Earns Spot on National Student Advocacy Board

As many Connecticut students are honored with end-of -year school awards for community accomplishments, Putnam High School Junior Jozzlynn Lewis has earned a coveted spot on a national teen board. She has been selected by Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) to join an advocacy-training program called SADD SPEAKs, the only youth from Connecticut to earn the distinction for the coming year. SADD state coordinator for Connecticut, the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, announced Lewis’ appointment:  “Jozzlynn was one of only 15 young people from across the country who was chosen. It is quite an honor!” said Jill Spineti, President & CEO, The Governor’s Prevention Partnership (The Partnership). “This is also significant for The Partnership because this is the first time in ten years that we have had a youth from Connecticut involved in a national SADD initiative.”speaks-300x215

Lewis’ appointment to SADD Speaks was announced recently at the Partnership’s Annual Governor’s Residence Reception, a private event at the Governor’s home, which recognizes the organization’s top corporate investors.  She addressed CEOs, Commissioners and other high level officials at the event hosted by Governor Malloy and other members of the Partnership’s Board of Directors.

Lewis, 17, underwent a competitive selection process which focused on her experience, leadership qualities, public speaking ability, and other criteria, officials said. She was recognized as a dynamic student leader who has also been involved in her local substance abuse prevention coalition, Putnam PRIDE, for many years, along with her mother, Cheryl. Her interest in SADD stems from seeing alcohol and substance use in her own school.

“Sometimes kids come to class under the influence,” explains Lewis, who will begin her senior year in the fall. “This has a negative influence on all of the students, not just the ones who use.  I became involved in SADD in order to make a difference and do my part to make things better.”image001

Spineti notes that “More than 50 percent of Connecticut's youth continue to deal with issues of drug use, family alcoholism, bullying and child abuse. We partner with SADD and exemplary students such as Jozzlynn to help children avoid all substances to ensure a healthier future.”

Although progress has been made, Spineti stresses that efforts need to be intensified.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, nationally each month 26.4 percent of underage persons (ages 12-20) used alcohol, and binge drinking among the same age group was 17.4 percent. And nearly three quarters of students (72%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and more than a third (37%) have done so by eighth grade, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

New data released this month reflected some results from efforts to reduce underage drinking during the past decade – from 2005 to 2015, there was a 15.1 percent drop in reported use by high school students.  This is better than the national average for the same time period, which shows a 10.5 percent decrease in youth alcohol use (CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey), officials said.

jozzlynLewis’ commitment and dedication impressed the judging panel.

“Jozzlynn is deserving of this high honor. Her deep desire to empower her peers and change her community will serve her well, as she works to implement policy change at the local, state, and national level,” said Dawn Teixeira, SADD president and chief executive officer. “Motivated young people are a true catalyst for social change.”

“I am so very proud of Jozzlynn and her dedication to SADD, as well as her commitment to wanting to make Putnam High School and our community a safer place to learn and live,” adds Lisa Mooney, School Social Worker and SADD Advisor at Putnam High School.

SADD SPEAKs (Students for Policy, Education, Advocacy, & Knowledge) is an initiative of SADD National, funded by State Farm, that focuses on addressing an impaired driving issue. The participants will have a positive and lasting effect on public policy, demonstrating the power of America’s young people to speak persuasively on critically important issues. They will be trained in coalition building, public speaking and advocacy skills.

This year’s SADD SPEAKs delegates will develop an advocacy plan to address an impaired driving issue (distracted, drowsy, drugged or underage drinking and driving). The group will then lead the national organization’s efforts on Capitol Hill and before their own state and local governments, as well as mobilize thousands of SADD students across the country.

The SADD National Conference, held later this month in Pittsburgh, will include some attendees from Connecticut – nearly a dozen students, teachers and officials from New London will be among those on hand.

At the Governor’s Residence, The Partnership also shared its new strategic plan with the attendees who generously support the non-profit organization. The plan is focused on The Partnership’s mission to equip and connect community groups, business leaders and families to prevent substance abuse, underage drinking and violence among youth.tumblr_static_saddlogo

Created in 1989, the Governor’s Prevention Partnership is a not-for-profit partnership between state government and business leaders with a mission to keep Connecticut’s youth, safe, successful, and drug-free.  The organization focuses on positive school climate, mentoring, and the prevention of underage drinking and substance abuse.

Founded as Students Against Driving Drunk in 1981 in Wayland, Massachusetts, SADD has grown to become the nation’s leading peer-to-peer youth education and prevention organization with thousands of chapters in middle schools, high schools and colleges. In 1997, in response to requests from SADD students themselves, SADD expanded its mission and name and now sponsors chapters called Students Against Destructive Decisions.

PHOTO: Jozzlynn Lewis, left, newly appointed to the National SADD teen advocacy board with Jill Spineti, President & CEO of The Governor’s Prevention Partnership.


PERSPECTIVE: Consider the Meaning of Language Before You Use It – Or Prepare to Lose

by Paul Steinmetz A university is a wonderful place to work if you like the energy of young people, smart coworkers who are trained to challenge the status quo, and the clanging excitement that the combination creates. You will also notice that the inhabitants of universities and colleges sometimes get themselves knotted up in problems that others don’t face, and they often involve the use of language.

One reason for these issues is that there are a lot of constituencies of higher education, and trying to please them all might be impossible.

Complicating the situation, colleges and universities are often at the forefront of trends in lifestyle and other thinking, which means the words we use to describe these new things are not well defined or accepted. It’s very easy to be well-meaning and yet upset someone.

Finally, you have professors who are very definite in their opinions and students who are enthusiastic in their challenge of such opinions.

The occasional result: chaos, misunderstanding and anger.

perspective squareHere are a few examples:

At the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, an administrative office published a guide of pronouns that transgender people might prefer. The list included ze and hir or zir instead of he/she and her or him. Xe and xem would take the place of they and them.

The education trade journal Inside Higher Ed reported that the guide “created a political uproar in the state.” The university president ordered the guide removed from the UT website, saying, “The social issues and practices raised by the Office for Diversity and Inclusion are appropriate ones for discussion on a university campus. However, it was not appropriate to do so in a manner that suggests it is the expectation that all on campus embrace these practices.”

At Washington State University, a professor wrote a syllabus that banned the use of certain words in class and promised punishment to any students who used the words.

From the syllabus:

“Use of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist or generally offensive language in class or submission of such material will not be tolerated. (This includes ‘The Man,’ ‘Colored People,’ ‘Illegals/Illegal Aliens,’ ‘Tranny’ and so on — or referring to women/men as females or males.)”language quote

The university administration acknowledged that the professor was attempting to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for everyone. But it pointed out that the syllabus probably violates the First Amendment and ordered all professors “to ensure that students’ right to freedom of expression is protected along with a safe and productive learning environment.”

Finally, you might think that the definition of genocide is clear-cut, but it’s not. Sacramento State University in California is the most recent institution to teach us this.

A sophomore there says her professor threatened to kick her out of class after she allegedly challenged his statement that the term “genocide” wasn’t appropriate for U.S. settler and government actions against American Indians.

Again according to a report in Inside Higher Ed, the professor allegedly said that genocide implies intention and, in his opinion, most native people were killed by European diseases.

The student said she was “enraged” by that statement and a couple of days later she debated the professor in class and began reading out loud the United Nations’ 1948 definition of genocide. The professor asked her to stop, inviting her to talk to him after class rather than “hijack” his lesson. Social media and bloggers reported on the confrontation and the university is investigating exactly what happened in the classroom. (The Inside Higher Ed article offers examples of the many variables considered in deciding what is and what isn’t considered genocide.)

Although none of these situations occurred at the university where I work, I pay attention to them because it would be my task, along with many others, to advise on a response to such an uproar should it happen here.

As a professional writer and public relations practitioner, I often say that anticipating problems and addressing possible issues is usually better for an organization, and individuals, than moving ahead without thinking about the consequences of words. Language is sometimes volatile and has the potential to convey things not intended if mishandled. My other advice is that, when about to engage in potentially controversial activity, you should always let the boss know what you are doing. He/she/ze might later backtrack, but at least you have communicated thoughtfully and clearly. And that is what is important.


Paul Steinmetz is director of Public Affairs & Community Relations at Western Connecticut State University. As the founder of Writing Associates, he consults on writing issues for businesses and individuals. If you want to discuss a writing issue, contact him at

PERSPECTIVE commentaries by contributing writers from across the state appear each Sunday on Connecticut by the Numbers.

Building Character in Children Can Improve Voter Participation As Adults, Study Finds

As primary voters head to the polls in nearly two dozen Connecticut communities, with relatively low turnout anticipated, a newly released academic study on connections between childhood character-building and adult voting participation is gaining some notice. A researcher at Duke University has found that data from years of national surveys of youth reveal “a strong relationship” between measures of character in youth and the subsequent likelihood of voting, even controlling for test scores and

The study appears to have identified a causal relationship: Disadvantaged elementary-school children around the country who were randomly assigned to receive character-building education two decades ago were more likely to vote as adults by 11 to 14 percentage points.

The research paper, by John B. Holbein of Duke University, is entitled “Childhood Non-Cognitive Skill Development and Adult Political Participation.” Matching participants to voter files, Holbein found that childhood intervention had a large long-run impact on political participation.”  Non-cognitive factors were seen as at least as critical as cognitive factors – and perhaps more influential on voting behavior later in life.

The results of the study “suggest a refocusing of civics education.”  The study, published on the Social Science Research Network, concludes that “specific programs that schools implement—including those targeting psychosocial skills—appear to have a large impact on civic participation later on. This finding has important policy implications.”character

In the last midterm election, in 2014, only 36.4 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot nationwide, the lowest turnout since 1942. To understand the causes of low turnout, the Census Bureau regularly asks citizens why they chose not to exercise their constitutional right, Jonah Lehrer points out on his website, summarizing that “the number one reason is always the same: ‘too busy.’ (That was the reason given by 28 percent of non-voters in 2014.) The second most popular excuse is ‘not interested,’ followed by a series of other obstacles, such as forgetting about the election or not liking any of the candidates.”

The Holbein study suggests there is more behind the lack of voting behavior than those oft-cited reasons would suggest.

Critical factors in character building are self-regulation and those involving social skills.  Components of self-regulation include, but are not limited to, grit or perseverance, emotion recognition and emotion regulation—the ability to understand and control individual affect; and inhibition, or the ability to avoid negative behavior and exhibit positive behavior.  Social skills involve the ability to work with others productively; components include the ability to communicate, build friendships, and solve group-based problems.ssrn

“Rather than focusing exclusively on the number of years a citizen spends in school, it is important to consider what context they were exposed to while in school… In a landscape of stagnant macro-level trends in participation and small estimates for many adult mobilization efforts, this finding should give scholars and policymakers renewed hope,” according to the study.

The research indicated that “interventions in early life can have large and long-lasting impacts on stubbornly low rates of political participation in adulthood. This finding suggests a reorientation of political socialization studies towards early childhood; a previously neglected critical period in the development of participatory predispositions.”  Similar research into the impact of non-cognitive learning has come away with consistent findings.

Looking ahead, the study suggests that “expanding our view in this way will help expand our understanding of why some people vote, while others do not, and how to design reforms to increase turnout, particularly among individuals with a low propensity to vote.”

CT Has 3rd Lowest Percentage of Low Income Students in Public Schools, Nationwide Numbers Exceed 50 Percent

For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of public school students across the country are considered “low-income," according to a new study by the Southern Education Foundation. While poor children are spread across the country, concentrations are highest in the South and in the West. Connecticut has among the lowest percentages in the nation. The latest data collected from the states by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), show that 51 percent of the students across the nation’s public schools were low income in 2013. In 40 of the 50 states, low income students comprised no less than 40 percent of all public schoolchildren. In 21 states, children eligible for free or reduced-price lunches were a majority of the students.student computers

Connecticut, which ranked tied for third, was among only ten states where the percentage of “low-income” students was below 40 percent. The states are Virginia (39%), Ohio (39%), Wyoming (38%), Minnesota (38%), Massachusetts (37%), New Jersey (37%), Connecticut (36%), Vermont (36%) North Dakota (30%) and New Hampshire (27%), which had the nation’s lowest percentage of low income (eligible for free and reduced lunches) public school students.

Thirteen of the 21 states with a majority of low income students in 2013 were located in the South, and six of the other 21 states were in the West. Mississippi led the nation with the highest rate: 71 percent, almost three out of every four public school children in Mississippi, were low-income. The nation’s second highest rate was found in New Mexico, where 68 percent of all public school students were low income in 2013.SEF

The report noted that “this defining moment in enrollment in public education in the United States comes as a consequence of a steadily growing trend that has persisted over several decades.”

In 1989, less than 32 percent of the nation’s public school students were low-income. By 2000, the national rate as compiled and calculated by NCES had increased to over 38 percent. By 2006, the national rate was 42 percent and, after the Great Recession, the rate climbed in 2011 to 48 percent, the report indicated.

The 2013 data suggests that six other states are on the verge of reaching a majority of low income students in the near future, if current trends continue. In Indiana and Oregon, 49 percent of the public schoolchildren were low income. In New York and Kansas, the rates were 48 percent. In Idaho and Michigan, rates were 47 percent.

The report concludes by stating t21 stateshat “The trends of the last decade strongly suggest that little or nothing will change for the better if schools and communities continue to postpone addressing the primary question of education in America today: what does it take and what will be done to provide low income students with a good chance to succeed in public schools? It is a question of how, not where, to improve the education of a new majority of students.”

Founded in 1867 as the George Peabody Education Fund, the Southern Education Foundation’s mission is to advance equity and excellence in education for all students in the South, particularly low income students and students of color. The organization's "core belief is that education is the vehicle by which all students get fair chances to develop their talents and contribute to the common good."




Survey Reveals Teens Unprepared for Costs of College, Uncertain About Future

As prospective college students receive word this month on whether they’ve been accepted to their preferred institution – and how much financial aid they’ll be receiving - the greater challenge begins.  That’s the grueling exercise to crunch the numbers to try to come up with ways to afford the impending and imposing tuition bill. That reality makes the findings of the Junior Achievement USA® (JA) and The Allstate Foundation's 2013 Teens and Personal Finance Poll ring alarm bells for teens and their families, as they look ahead to the financial impact of college:

  • Only 9% of teens report they are currently saving money for college.
  • More than a quarter of teens (28%) haven’t talked with their parents about paying for college.
  • More than half (52%) of teens think students are borrowing too much money to pay for college.

JA is helping students understand the importance of saving and planning for future financial needs, working with students from kindergarten through 12th grade.  That’s at the core of JA’s work, driven by volunteers who provide a real-world view for students.  To meet the need reflected in the latest data and reach more students, JA has opportunities right now – often at a school close to home - for volunteers to participate.

The increasing cost of college, difficult job market and sluggish economy appear to be affecting teens’ views on the timetable for attaining financial independence, and the prospects for their long-term financial security.  According to the poll, during the past two years the percentage of teens who:

  • Think they will be financially dependent on their parents until age 25 has more than doubled – from 12% in 2011 to 25% in 2013.
  • Say they don’t know or are not sure at what age they will attain financial independence from their parents jumped from a mere 1% in 2011 to 11% in 2013.
  • Don’t know or who are unsure if they will be financially better off than their parents has risen significantly, from 4% to 28%.

Teens’ uncertainty about their financial future is also a reflection of their lack of financial knowledge and understanding.  More than one-third (34%) are somewhat or extremely unsure about their ability to invest money.  And of the 33% of teens who say they do not use a budget, 42% are "not interested," and more than a quarter (26%) think that "budgets are for adults."

“Today’s teens expect to be financially dependent on their parents longer, and the number who can’t even predict when they might gain financial independence has jumped ten-fold in just the past two years,” said Louis J. Golden, Pstudentsresident of JA of Southwest New England.  “The economy certainly plays a role, but part of the uncertainly is because far too many teens lack a fundamental understanding of how to manage their money.  JA delivers specific, effective programs directly to the classroom that respond to that knowledge gap.”

JA's unique delivery system provides the training, materials, and support necessary to build student skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. Last year, more than 2,500 volunteers - business professionals, parents, retirees, and college students – offered JA programs to more than 34,500 students in schools throughout Hartford, Litchfield, New Haven, Windham, Tolland, New London and Middlesex counties.

The volunteers use their personal experiences to make the JA curricula practical and realistic. Providing children with positive adult role models, who illustrate ways to build self-confidence, develop skills and find avenues of success in our economic system, is a hallmark of Junior Achievement.  Individual interested in learning more about the JA volunteer program should contact 860-525-4510 or visit for details.