Episode 26 of the More than Health Care: A Community Health Conversation podcast is now available on the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities’ website and on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify. Every other week, a new episode uncovers keys to collaboration and holistic health in pursuit of improved health outcomes and lower costs for all.

For more than 18 years, Marisa Perez-Martin has experienced the importance of connecting children and youth with mental health services directly in the school setting. And while any presence is worthwhile, she also understands that being embedded in a school, rather than arriving for only a 50-minute appointment, is better for all involved.

As vice president of school-based mental health and early education services for Alliance member Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services in Pasadena, California, she is working to ensure the best mental health care possible for students by placing teams of professionals within the Pasadena and Los Angeles area school districts.

Making that happen means collaborating with other agencies to get teams of mental health professionals involved in school-based programs. And for over a decade, Hathaway Sycamores has been part of a consortium that now embeds workers in 35 schools. But having teams ready to provide services only works if the schools are on board with the same outlook and willingness to participate. “The first step is really looking at someone [schools] that's just as innovative as we are, that believes in mental health, really sees how this is going to be beneficial and also is seeing it more as a partnership,” says Perez-Martin.

For optimum results, school-based teams are on campus for 40 hours per week, and in addition to working with students, provide psychology education for parents and teachers. This helps extend the team’s reach to include all who have an impact on kids in school settings outside of the classroom to involve other students who don't need as much direct therapy but can benefit from behavioral support.

That direct and daily presence has also proven to be a positive and fulfilling experience for therapists and counselors. Speaking from experience, Perez-Martin knows what it’s like to be recognized by those she helps. “It's so fun being on the elementary school campus, especially when you're integrated because you're a rock star. I mean, you walk across that campus and the kids like come up to you, and they're giving you high fives, or they yell your name. … It's like you're a celebrity,” she explains. This type of interaction validates the authentic relationship between the mental health provider and student, and Perez-Martin is working hard to make sure it expands to all students who can benefit from it.

Listen to Marisa Perez-Martin explain the need and benefits of embedding teams of mental health professionals within the school setting in Episode 26 of the  More than Health Care Podcast  available through the Alliance website or subscribe on the Apple Podcast, Google Play, or Spotify apps

For information on how other organizations are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, watch the recording of our recent webinar COVID-19: Implications for Organizations that Provide Mental Health Services in Schools.

About the Podcast

While many are realizing that collaboration and holistic approaches are the solution, the health care and human services sectors are struggling to find the right formula to realize the full potential. The More than Health Care podcast is designed to help organizations overcome barriers to partnerships resulting from cultural differences, financial pressures, and rules and regulations. 

In addition to showcasing inspiring examples of integration from across the country, featured experts will expose the myths, misconceptions, and shortcomings of efforts to address the social determinants of health through collaboration across sectors. 

This podcast is presented by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, Ascentria Care Alliance, and Beech Acres Parenting Center. Cohosts Jill Huynh, vice president of new business development at Beech Acres, and Tim Johnstone, executive vice president of community services at Ascentria, work at the intersection of health and human services, bringing the expertise and practical experience to uncover key takeaways for improving health care and human services integration. 

Subscribe on  Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Spotify

Learn more about the Alliance's efforts to improve population health and well-being.