As the state agency responsible for providing prevention, intervention and treatment services and supports for children, youth, and adults with mental health and/or substance use disorders in the District of Columbia (DC), the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) serves as the applicant for the 988 State and Territory Cooperative Agreements. The District of Columbia has only one National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) certified by the American Association Suicidology (AAS); Access Helpline (AHL) housed within the DBH. The AHL provides a seven-day-a-week twenty-four-hours-a-day behavioral health crisis hotline, staffed by behavioral health professionals who de-escalate caller when possible or connect callers to immediate help or ongoing care as clinically appropriate or necessary. In this capacity, the AHL Call Center answers calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for the District of Columbia. The DBH plans to expand the AHL workforce and functions to include chat, text, follow-up, and training opportunities to be better equipped to handle contacts across these modalities. The DBH and AHL will develop plans to sustain workforce capacity, adhere to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and to reduce the number of calls going to national backup call centers. The DBH currently serves 6,930 Lifeline callers annually. According to Vibrant Emotional Health, the projected number of contacts to be referred to DBH in Year One of the 988 implementation will be 16,100. The DBH will review internal workflows to ensure that Lifeline calls continue to take precedence over non-crisis call functions and plans to increase existing AHL staff to ensure that calls are answered promptly.
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DC Discretionary Funding Fiscal Year 2023
K-12 school-based staff who frequently interact with students have significant potential to identify signs of distress or adversity in youth before they escalate, but are typically not provided mental health awareness information and training on de-escalation strategies. The goal is to address this gap by providing evidence-based mental and emotional health training to over 600 school- and community-based staff and parents/caregivers starting in School Year 2021-2022. The Advancing Mental Health Awareness Among DC School-Based Personnel project intends to benefit students attending public or public charter schools in Washington, DC, with particular emphasis on serving low-income students and families of color. Eighty-five percent (85%) of DC public or public charter students are either Black (66%) or Latino (19%), and one in four DC children live in poverty. The prevalence of COVID-related mortality among low-income people of color, along with the health and economic stressors and the social isolation created by this public health crisis, have produced conditions where rates of unmet mental, behavioral, and social-emotional health problems have multiplied. The strategy planned for this project is to give school security personnel, athletic directors and coaches, food service workers, librarians from public libraries, and parent/caregivers education around signs and symptoms associated with youth mental illness, using the evidence-based Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) curriculum, and information to utilize established school referral processes. As overall demand for this training is greater than the number of YMHFA instructors available in the city, this project also prioritizes training members of DC schools and community based organizations to become YMHFA certified trainers. In order to realize this strategy, the project plans to provide YMHFA training to 47 school-based staff and parent advocates who will become certified trainers and advocates for youth mental health in Washington DC. Over the duration of the project, these certified trainers will train over 600 school-based staff and parents/caregivers across the District (total of 80 in Year 1, 100 in Year 2, 120 in Year 3, 126 in Year 4, and 130 in Year 5). The goal associated with this project will be to increase school-based referrals to behavioral health supports among DC public and public charter schools. To work toward this goal, the training will help direct public school students and their families to high-quality school- and community-based behavioral health care. This project will build on the citywide Expansion of School Behavioral Health Initiative to advance a culturally-responsive, trauma-informed multi-tiered system of support for all students across DC.