Kansas City,
10:00 AM

Children’s Mercy Kansas City, Center School District, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City Announce First-of-its-Kind Collaboration to Tackle Youth Mental Health Crisis

Children’s Mercy Kansas City, one of the nation’s leading independent pediatric health organizations, Center School District, a leader in academic innovation, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC), the largest not-for-profit health insurer in Missouri and the only not-for-profit commercial health insurer in Kansas City, have announced a three-year early intervention pilot program to tackle the mental health crisis among school-aged children. 

More than 15 million children nationwide require mental health services, but many do not receive the care they need. In the Kansas City region, 40-50% of youth go untreated.

This first-of-its-kind shared decision-making collaborative was created after careful and intentional consideration of Center School District’s specific needs and strengths and designed to improve access to behavioral health education and services in the school setting.

The pilot program, in part, will incorporate education on and, implementation of, restorative practice training with the expertise of RestorED. Specifically, the program will provide students and staff with training in unique skills aimed at strengthening student-to-student and teacher-to-student relationships, increasing empathy and personal accountability, and fostering community. Extended support will also be provided to students’ families.

“When we launched Illuminate – our comprehensive initiative to address the mental health needs of area children and teens – we knew we had to have a leading-edge approach to make more resources available in the community that would provide the most impact,” said Robert Steele, MD, Executive VP, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer, Children’s Mercy Kansas City. “The more we lock arms with other innovative corporate partners for behavioral and mental health services in our schools, the more we can collectively provide support and foster resilience among our youth to promote self-care and well-being before issues become a crisis.”

The goal of the program is to proactively support the social and emotional needs of students with evidence-based behavioral health education to improve engagement, attendance, and performance, while simultaneously reducing the incidents of disruptive behavior that often lead to suspension and expulsion.

“In the Center School District we are privileged to work with over 2,500 young people in our community every single day,” said Superintendent, Dr. Yolanda Cargile. “They come to us with unlimited potential for learning. Our job is to help them unlock their unique potential and ignite their minds with a passion to learn so when they graduate, they are prepared for their future, making our world a better place. An important part of unlocking potential and igniting minds is supporting the mental and behavioral health of our students. We are very excited to have Children’s Mercy and Blue KC as part of our team supporting student mental health.”

Over the next several months, foundational work and internal needs assessments will be conducted in conjunction with community shareholders, caregivers, teachers, and general school staff to inform further interventions, trainings and support that will be provided by Children’s Mercy experts starting fall of 2024.

Children’s Mercy, Center School District and Blue KC are committed to working together to develop a culturally responsive and community-driven program model that can be sustained over time and replicated in other school districts.

“Our children are facing an unprecedented health crisis with pediatric ER visits related to mental health issues increasing by 8% each year from 2015-2020. As a parent, I’m committed to helping our community find solutions,” said Carmen Parker-Bradshaw, DVP, Population Health, Blue KC. “This partnership with Children’s Mercy, Center School District, and Blue KC gives us the opportunity to not only reach kids who are in crisis but also find those who are struggling with their mental health. With appropriate interventions and education, we can give them the tools they need to live happier and healthier lives.”

This school-based pilot program is just one of 14 projects of the broader Children’s Mercy Illuminate plan.