The Behavioral and Mental Health team in the Office of Student and Family Support (SFS) works to help ensure that schools and districts build internal capacity to meet the social emotional and behavioral and mental health needs of their students, families and staff as well as develop their capacity to build partnerships with community-based providers.
On August 10th, 2022, Governor Baker signed into law Chapter 177 of the Acts of 2022 (An Act Addressing Barriers to Care for Mental Health). This webpage provides a brief overview of the bill's K–12 education-related provisions that the DESE has a role in implementing. Please contact the Office of Student and Family Support with questions via firstname.lastname@example.org . For additional information, you can also read How the Commonwealth's New Mental Health Act Impacts Schools provided by the Rennie Center (a DESE partner on several related initiatives).
Spotlight on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Mental Health Enhancing Systems of Student Support Professional Learning Communities (PLC):
The Department, is pleased to offer a series of professional learning communities (PLCs) that offer educators guidance and support on building comprehensive school mental health systems that address the holistic needs of students, in partnership with:
The full menu, schedule and registration information for the PLCs planned for school year 2023-2024 can be found at Spotlight on SEL MH.
Additional related PD offerings:
Lighthouse Wellness and Health Education Consulting, Inc, will offer a series of free professional learning opportunities for school and district personnel covering topics related to Cultivating Well-Being, Physical Education & Physical Activity, and Youth Mental Health First Aid.
Youth Mental Health First Aid: The Department has partnered with Walker Therapeutic & Educational Programs, Lighthouse Wellness and Health Education Consulting, Pinnacle Partnerships, and others to offer Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training. The training helps teachers, other school staff, parents, and others who interact with youth to recognize and support students ages 6–18 who may be experiencing mental health or substance use challenges. The training also helps adults know how to refer students to mental health services. As everyone continues to navigate the impacts and challenges of the pandemic, it is likely that adults are seeing more students who report and show changes in mood as well as more intense feelings of anxiety and stress.
Though school mental health professionals may find this training helpful, the intended audience is individuals without mental health training who work or interact with young people. School districts may request up to two free trainings for up to 60 members of their staff and community. Participating districts will also be eligible for technical assistance to develop follow-up systems and resources for integrating this training into multi-tiered systems for student support. Request sessions here.
Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (CoIIN): During school years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 the Department, in partnership with the Massachusetts School Mental Health Consortium (MASMHC), engaged with selected districts in a learning collaborative facilitated by the National Center for School Mental Health. The initiative included professional development, technical assistance, and ongoing coaching to pilot practices to support the establishment of comprehensive school mental health systems. Participating Districts — Fiscal Year (FY) 2022: Agawam, Haverhill, King Phillip, Monomoy Regional & Waltham. FY2021: Belchertown, Berkshire Hills Regional, Boston Renaissance Charter Public, Burlington, New Bedford, and Randolph
A Comprehensive School Mental Health System (CSMHS) is defined as school-district-community-family partnerships that provide a continuum of evidence-based mental health services to support students, families, and the school community.
Supporting Students' Social Emotional Learning, Behavioral & Mental Health, and Wellness Grant — The SEL/ MH grant is funded through state line items and with additional federal funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Funds (ESSER). This grant program supports Massachusetts public school districts and communities to adapt, expand, or strengthen multi-tiered systems of support to respond to the social-emotional and behavioral health needs of students, families, and educators and to build strong partnerships with community-based mental health agencies and/or providers.
This grant aims to build capacity of school districts, charter schools, and educational collaboratives to do the following:
In FY2022, seventy-three (73) school districts and collaboratives were awarded grants and are eligible for continued funding pending appropriation in FY2023 and FY2024.
The competitive FY2023 Supporting SEL & Mental Health Grant SEL/MH Grant is open to Massachusetts public school districts (including charter schools) that were not recipients of a FY2022 Fund Codes 613-311-332 SEL & MH Grant .
Holistic Support and Enrichment, SEL, Health and Safety Newsletter — The Department periodically shares updates and offerings related to holistic supports and enrichment, including efforts to help strengthen social emotional competencies, health, and safety. You can sign-up & see past issues for this and other Department newsletters.
Family Engagement — The primary goal of family engagement is to facilitate shared responsibility that contributes to the healthy development, learning, and growth of children - from the earliest ages into young adulthood. Family engagement builds relationships between students, families, educators, and the community. These relationships over time develop into meaningful partnerships rooted in the strengths and assets of all.
Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) — A Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) is a framework for how school districts can build the necessary systems to ensure that each and every student receives a high-quality educational experience. It is designed to support schools with proactively identifying and addressing the strengths and needs of all students by optimizing data-driven decision-making, progress monitoring, and the use of evidence-based supports and strategies with increasing intensity to sustain student growth. In 2018, Massachusetts updated its MTSS Blueprint to reflect the most current research and enhance the user experience. For example, the current blueprint more explicitly focuses on equitable access and universal design for learning (UDL) and fully integrates social emotional, behavioral, and academic learning.
Promoting Student Engagement, Learning, Wellbeing and Safety — School Year 2021-2022 (Released Summer 2021) : (Power Point slides / eLearning Module) The Department is providing this document to support district efforts to promote the wellbeing of students families and school staff. This document includes guidance previously released by DESE, as well as new and updated resources to help districts develop, strengthen, and implement comprehensive systems for engaging with students and their families, connecting students and families with additional supports they may need, and promoting student safety. This document also includes racial equity and cultural responsiveness considerations to support districts in ensuring the wellbeing of all our students.
MA Tools for Schools is a clearinghouse from the Department of resources to support sustainable school improvement in Massachusetts.
Chris Pond , Behavioral Health and Mental Health Specialist
Last Updated: January 25, 2024
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
135 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA 02149
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.