Youth mental health screening tool readies for wider launch

A series of tragic youth suicides in the Fox Cities around 2010 was the impetus for developing a wide-reaching mental health screening tool for young people in Northeast Wisconsin. At the time, Samaritan Counseling Center in Menasha established a regional advisory board that tapped a program from Columbia University called TeenScreen. By 2014, Columbia discontinued TeenScreen, and board members pivoted to address perceived shortcomings in that program through a collaboration between local researchers and mental health experts. The improved tool, known today as the Connected Community Wellness Screen (CCWS), was developed by Lori Hilt, Ph.D., of the CARE Lab at Lawrence University in partnership with Samaritan. Fast-forward to 2021, and onsite CCWS school teams work in 10 Northeast Wisconsin school districts at 56 sites to administer the screening and connect families to community mental health resources.

Pandemic and positivity rates
The pandemic exacerbated the need for trusted adults to make contact with young people in need of mental health support. School administrators often refer to CCWS as a “mental health ER on wheels” because staff members are present to young people when their normal mental health symptoms boil over into emergencies from grief, sadness, hopelessness and anxiety, all the way to suicidal ideation. Last March, CCWS immediately established protocols for virtual administration of the confidential online screenings. Given the team’s inability to meet with students in classroom settings, participation rates fell, but positivity rates increased markedly. The need for mental health interventions was, and is, more important than ever.

The ROI of mental health
CCWS is a point of access to quality mental health care for entire family systems. Families get help with relationship problems, family-system trauma, mental health disorders, addiction and poverty outcomes, including improved adult worksite productivity and decreased sick day utilization. Furthermore, young people who get early intervention for issues like crippling anxiety have improved academic success and higher graduation rates and learn lifelong coping skills.

Let’s Get Candid
Since 2014, CCWS has been tested rigorously and improved continuously in school and research settings. After a series of inquiries at national conferences, CCWS invested in the development of Candid™, a CCWS model for mental health professionals across the nation to implement in their local schools. At press time, Candid is in beta testing and a complete rollout of the product is expected this fall.

To inquire about Candid or Connected Community Wellness Screen availability and outcomes, please contact me at [email protected]. 

Jennifer Parsons
is program director
of the Connected
Community Wellness
Screen at Samaritan
Counseling Center.

Company: Samaritan Counseling
Innovation: Connected Community Wellness Screen

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