Child Health

Ohio’s Whole Child Framework: Services to students and families to support child behavioral health

October 21, 2022 | Ohio

Ohio’s Whole Child Framework: Services to students and families to support child behavioral health

By Alison Paxson, Senior Policy Associate | October 18, 2022

In partnership with The Knowledge Works Foundation and other partners as part of the Ohio Whole Child Coordinating Committee, CDF-Ohio co-authored a new issue brief outlining recommendations for improving services to students and families and expanding access to behavioral health services through our education and health care systems.

Services to students and families is a key piece of Ohio’s Whole Child Framework. This framework is aimed at meeting students’ social-emotional, physical and safety needs, in addition to academics. This comprehensive approach places the whole child at the center and relies on key partnerships between families, schools, and community partners to ensure every child is healthy, safe, engaged, challenged, and supported to thrive. The ultimate aim of the whole child approach is to support children to come to school healthy and ready to engage in learning with their basic needs met.

One dire area of unmet need for many children and youth in our state and across country is in mental and behavioral health care. In fact, data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book shows:

  • In 2022, a national survey of parents found that 75% thought their child would benefit from mental health counseling, up from 68% the year before.
  • In 2020, nearly one in eight Ohio children received a diagnosis of anxiety, depression or both, up 42% from 2016 – the 10th-highest increase nationwide.
  • In 2022, 60% of LGBTQ youth surveyed by The Trevor Project wanted mental health care in the past year but could not access it.

Untreated health conditions, including behavioral and mental health issues, contribute to high rates of chronic absenteeism, a figure that has skyrocketed in Ohio by 40.5% in just two years since virtual learning began, which can have lifelong negative consequences for child’s health, academic, and overall wellbeing.

To support and expand student access to behavioral health care, we highlight three key recommendations that are further detailed and elaborated in the issue brief linked below:

  • Recommendation 1: In partnership with families, leverage existing federal and state funding to identify both short- and long-term strategies to effectively allocate public funding to meet every student’s behavioral health needs.
  • Recommendation 2: Expand the type of services and providers that are allowed to bill Medicaid – through the Medicaid in Schools Program – to provide more students with access to health coverage and services while maintaining a commitment to financial stability.
  • Recommendation 3: Support districts, communities, parents, families, providers, and statewide actors to grow partnerships between school districts and health care providers focused on student behavioral health needs.

Access the full issue brief and dive deeper into the recommendations here on The Knowledge Works Foundation Website.

Special thank you to the Greene County Education Service Center for sharing the critical work they are undertaking to develop strong community partnerships and ensure children are entering kindergarten ready to engage in their learning journeys with their behavioral health needs met.