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Social Work


Kristin Richards


Evidence shows that treating mental health issues positively impacts academic and other life outcomes for students. However, there remains a gap in knowledge specific to academic outcomes and to rural school districts. It is important for mental health providers, educators, and third-party payers to gain an understanding of how treating mental health in the school setting affects student performance. The purpose of this quantitative study, which had contribution analysis as its theoretical framework, was to examine the academic and behavioral outcomes of participating in a school-based mental health (SBMH) program in rural school districts in Iowa. The specific focus was on examining whether participating in an SBMH program affected grades, attendance, clinical outcomes via Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) scores and behavior referrals. A single-group interrupted time series pretest-posttest design was used with secondary data provided by the schools and community mental health providers. The final sample size was 87 and included students who participated in the SBMH program in 8 rural schools in rural Iowa. The data collection was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent school closures; however, the data that were collected before and after school closures were analyzed using paired samples t-test of the pre/post data. The results indicate positive outcomes specifically in clinical CBCL scores in the various domains. Although further study with complete data sets is recommended, this study could inform decision makers on future education and behavioral health service program planning and staffing needs in rural school districts. It elicits social change by rethinking the way in which mental health services are provided and funded.