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Providence, Rhode Island To Embed Behavioral Health Specialists In Schools

Mayor Jorge Elorza announces the new behavioral health program for Providence public schools.
Jake Bissaro
The Providence Center

Mental health services for children can be difficult to access in Rhode Island. But a new public-private partnership is trying to make those services easier to access at some Providence public schools.

This story was produced by Rhode Island Public Radio.

Behavioral health clinicians from the nonprofit Providence Center will be on hand at two elementary schools and four middle schools in Providence. Clinicians from a company called Behavioral Health Services, Inc. will also provide clinical and technical support to make the program work.

The goal is to make it easier for families to access mental health services, as well as to give educators more tools to help students, fast.

The state faces a shortage of child behavioral health specialists. Most child psychiatrists don’t even take insurance. Now teachers and principals at these schools will be able to send their students to in-house specialists for diagnosis or treatment. They say that could help students struggling with everything from trauma to behavioral problems. And it won’t cost schools any money, because clinicians will bill the students’ health insurance. 

Installing clinicians at elementary and middle schools could help students receive help before symptoms worsen. A recent report the local Hasbro Children's Hospital found more than half of teens arriving in the emergency department for a variety of reasons reported symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, much of it linked to cyber-bullying or witnessing violence among peers.