What is Behavioral Health in Schools?

Behavioral Health in Schools (BHS) focuses on addressing the mental health needs of students in schools and their families. The central purpose of BHS is for students with mental health concerns to achieve psychosocial well-being, maximize their potential to engage in their education and grow academically to attain educational success. Our vision is to improve well-being among students with mental health concerns, enhance school environments for all students, and support an integrated and responsive health system.

Why Do We Need This?

Research shows that children are academically successful when their social-emotional needs are met. One in five MMSD students has mental health concerns significant enough to impact their learning and social-emotional well-being. Many of these students have difficulties accessing recommended necessary mental health services. Students of color and economically disadvantaged students are less likely to have access to mental health care. Expanded school-based mental health services bridge this critical gap.

How Will We Achieve This?

The vision is built on a partnership among organizations dedicated to nurturing a culturally responsive, trauma-informed, strengths-based, school-linked system of mental health practices and supports. The program integrates mental health therapists into the schools where they actively collaborate with Student Services staff and provide individual treatment to students who are unable to access community-based mental health care. BHS extends its impact by providing consultation and professional development to school staff, moving beyond a co-location model to an integrated model in which staff are simultaneously supported in learning how to facilitate the best environment for a child who is participating in BHS.

BHS is supported by braiding funding streams from schools, insurance claim reimbursements, government agencies, grants and diverse community groups. Direct services are partially supported by claim reimbursements, while integrated professional development and consultation services require funds from community resources.


BHS is currently implemented at five schools, with planning underway to continue to expand BHS into multiple schools in future years. This program is based on strong partnerships between many community organizations including MMSD, UW School of Medicine and Public Health Wisconsin Partnership Program, Catholic Charities, UW-Madison School of Social Work, Public Health of Madison and Dane County (PHMDC), Dane County Human Services, Children’s Mental Health Collaborative, and healthcare organizations in Dane County.

Thank you to the health care providers currently contributing: