Project Summary

This research project is in progress. PCORI will post the research findings on this page within 90 days after the results are final.

What is the research about?

Many children in the United States who need mental health services don’t get them. These services may not be available; children and their families may also worry about the stigma of getting help for mental health. School behavioral health, or SBH, programs are one way to make sure children get the services they need. In SBH programs, community mental health providers work with schools to offer social, emotional, behavioral, and academic support to students. In this study, the research team is looking at how well two SBH programs improve middle school students’ social, emotional, behavioral, and academic functioning.

Who can this research help?

Results may help school administrators who are considering SBH programs.

What is the research team doing?

Students from 22 middle schools—10 in Maryland and 12 in South Carolina—are taking part in this study. In both programs, clinicians from local mental health centers in each state work with the schools to address the social, emotional, and academic needs of students. Clinicians include social workers and licensed counselors. The research team is assigning 11 schools in each state by chance to implement one of two SBH programs.

One program is called Wellness. Wellness includes 

  • A quality review. This review may look at things like how well schools promote mental health and screen for mental health problems.
  • Clinicians and families working together. This work may include things like identifying problems and meeting students’ mental health goals.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. CBT helps students learn skills to address problems like anxiety and depression and improve behavior in school.
  • Training for clinicians on each of the three elements listed above.

The second program is called Partnership. It includes the Wellness program, plus training and support to help clinicians, teachers, and a family leader at each school work together to reduce the stigma of using SBH services. Teachers in the second program can use a program called the Guide to promote good mental health in their students.

Schools are taking part in the SBH programs for four years. The research team is surveying students who receive services at the start of the study and again every 90 days. The team is asking about

  • The amount of services received
  • How satisfied students are with the services received
  • Social functioning, such as relationships with family and peers
  • Emotional and behavioral functioning, such as anxiety, depression, or disruptive behavior
  • Mental health knowledge and perceived stigma
  • The quality of services and supports provided in school
  • Students’ relationships with their school therapists
  • Parent participation

Each year, the research team is collecting data from each school on students’ grades, attendance, lateness, and discipline problems.

Students, parents, school counselors and administrators, psychologists, social workers, doctors, and teachers are helping to plan and carry out the study.

Research methods at a glance

Design ElementDescription
DesignRandomized controlled trial
Population1,225 middle school students at 22 schools who are receiving school-based behavioral health services and their parents
  • Wellness
  • Partnership

Primary: academic grades, academic attendance rates, discipline rates, perceptions of school climate, access to services, satisfaction with services, social functioning, emotional/behavioral functioning, emergent risk behavior

Secondary: mental health knowledge and perceived stigma, overall standard of services and supports provided in school, client–therapist relationship, parent participation and engagement 


6-month follow-up for primary outcomes

Project Information

Mark Weist, PhD
University of South Carolina
Patient-Centered Enhancements in School Behavioral Health: A Randomized Trial

Key Dates

November 2018
March 2025

Study Registration Information


Award Type
Health Conditions Health Conditions These are the broad terms we use to categorize our funded research studies; specific diseases or conditions are included within the appropriate larger category. Note: not all of our funded projects focus on a single disease or condition; some touch on multiple diseases or conditions, research methods, or broader health system interventions. Such projects won’t be listed by a primary disease/condition and so won’t appear if you use this filter tool to find them. View Glossary
Populations Populations PCORI is interested in research that seeks to better understand how different clinical and health system options work for different people. These populations are frequently studied in our portfolio or identified as being of interest by our stakeholders. View Glossary
Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care. View Glossary
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: January 18, 2024