Offering mental health screenings, counseling, evaluation and support for children under 18, the Under the Rainbow department at Sinai Health System implements the Lawndale Schools Behavioral Health Program at three Chicago public elementary schools to work with students on managing anger, stress, and anxiety, and prevent bullying.
The program places masters- and doctoral-level therapists and doctoral externs in the classroom once a week where they use a curriculum of games and projects that help students learn to manage their emotions and actions. Therapists also observe classes, administer mental health screenings, and help teachers with classroom management. For higher-risk students needing individual treatment, the program operates “mini mental health centers” at these schools, where a licensed child psychologist and student extern treat students through 10 or fewer half-hour therapeutic sessions. Students needing more extensive treatment are referred to and treated at Sinai.
Given the prevalence of depression, adjustment disorders and social-emotional needs among urban school-age adolescents, the program serves a critical need and is in high demand by teachers and school administrators. After the program, students significantly improve their grades and exhibit greater social and emotional skills. Each year, the program identifies up to 40% of students with previously undiagnosed and untreated, mild to severe mental health needs. Through the program, the majority of students received weekly psychiatric treatment and access to medication as needed, often at no cost to their families.