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Model Program: A Culturally Competent School-Based Mental Health Program

Dallas School-based Youth and Family Centers


To establish the first comprehensive, culturally competent, school-based program in mental health care in the 12th largest school system in the Nation. The program overcomes stigma and inadequate access to care for underserved minority populations.


Annually serves the physical and mental health care needs of 3,000 low-income children and their families. The mental health component features partnerships with parents and families, treatment (typically 6 sessions), and follow-up with teachers. The well-qualified staff, who reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the population they serve (more than 70% Latino and African American), train school nurses, counselors, and principals to identify problems and create solutions tailored to meet each child's needs.


Improvements in attendance, discipline referrals, and teacher evaluation of child performance. 114 Preliminary findings reveal improvement in children's standardized test scores in relation to national and local norms.

Biggest challenge

To sustain financial and organizational support of collaborative partners despite resistance to change or jurisdictional barriers. Program's $3.5 million funding comes from the school district and an additional $1.5 million from Parkland Hospital.

How other organizations can adopt

Recognize the importance of mental health for the school success of all children, regardless of race or ethnicity. Rethink how school systems can more efficiently partner with and use State and Federal funds to deliver culturally competent school-based mental health services.


Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas

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