ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball and Congressman John Sarbanes hosted a roundtable with Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano to discuss the HCPSS school-based mental health program and the critical need for mental and behavioral health services. Photos of the event can be found here.
Even before the pandemic exacerbated this crisis, we recognized the gap in mental health services, especially for our students and young residents. Thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan, this program now allows every Howard County student in every school access to mental health services. Today we had the chance to hear directly from our school social workers on how this is making an impact. I’m grateful to Congressman Sarbanes for his advocacy for additional mental health funding, and to our school system. Our actions, at the across all levels of government, can make a difference and save lives.
“Our discussion today helped pave a path forward to meet the acute need for mental health services among children and adolescents. As we agreed, school-based health services are one of our most powerful tools to keep them safe,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “I applaud Howard County Executive Ball and Superintendent Dr. Martirano for their commitment to ensuring crucial health services are available for Howard County Public School System students. I will continue to work alongside these efforts in Congress to bolster School-Based Health Centers nationwide and ensure all students can thrive inside and outside the classroom.”
County Executive Ball included more than $2 million to support school based mental health for every student in every public school and provide wrap-around services to students who are most vulnerable. A total of $1.7 million will expand the School-Based Mental Health program for the next two years to all 77 public schools. Howard County contributed $980,000 in American Rescue Plan funding, with additional contributions being made by The Horizon Foundation and The Kahlert Foundation.
The school based mental health program (SBMHS) makes social workers available in HCPSS schools to increase access to student mental health services. Research shows that the availability of school-based mental health services reduces barriers to care with more than 70% of children nationally receiving mental health care in school settings. The program is also meant to create a school culture that is accepting of mental health and acknowledges the impact of trauma on students.
Congressman John Sarbanes is a longtime champion of School Based Health Centers (SBHCs) and has led efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives to secure $35 million in federal funding for the provision of physical and mental health services at SBHCs across the country.
During the roundtable, social workers from HCPSS discussed the positive impacts of the school based mental health program.
In the 2019-20 school year, the program served 15 elementary schools, nine middle schools, five high schools, and one education center (middle and high school students) out of 77 total schools in the district. Through the program, 58% of students referred to SBMHS were connected with a community mental health provider and referred students attended 90% of their scheduled appointments with community providers. The program also saw positive outcomes with improved attendance, academic growth, improved social-emotional skills, and reduced discipline referrals.
"I appreciate Congressman Sarbanes and County Executive Ball for taking time to understand the serious mental health needs that children are carrying with them and advocating for the necessary resources to serve every child," said Dr. Michael J. Martirano, Superintendent of the Howard County Public School System. "Too many children are suffering in silence and we see the results of that suffering play out far too often with tragic results. The access and supportive environment that our schools provide children make them ideal locations to provide comprehensive wraparound mental health supports."
"We are extremely grateful for the continued investment by the County and State for mental health resources that directly benefit children in schools," said Consuela Robinson, Instructional Facilitator for Social Work for Howard County schools. "We continue to see growing needs in our students and are grateful to Congressman Sarbanes and County Executive Ball for advocating on behalf of schools to receive sufficient funding, staffing and resources to support every student."