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?

Black youth are at increased risk for having unmet mental health needs. These unmet needs increase Black youths’ risk for poor outcomes such as school suspensions and suicide. Also, studies have found that school staff treat mental health problems as discipline issues with Black youth more often than with White youth.

School-based mental health, or SBMH, screening can help identify mental health needs early and connect Black students to treatment. But most SBMH services don’t address unwanted biases.

In this study, the research team is comparing two ways to provide mental health screening in schools:

  • SBMH screening. All students receive mental health screening. Teams of educators in each school, called referral teams, use data from screening to refer students to SBMH services.
  • Equity-enhanced SBMH screening. In addition to SBMH screening, referral teams receive an advanced training program. The program includes training in mental health literacy and unwanted biases. It also includes help reviewing school data on discipline practices and mental health screening, referral, and receipt to identify and address disparities.

Who can this research help?

Results may help school administrators and SBMH teams when considering ways to improve access to mental health services for Black students.

What is the research team doing?

The research team is enrolling students in 40 elementary schools that have referral teams; the schools are part of school districts that have SBMH services. The research team is assigning schools by chance to provide SBMH screening with or without the advanced training program.

The research team is looking at referral to and receipt of SBMH services and school suspensions over two school years. The team is also surveying 202 referral team members about their knowledge and attitudes about the content of the advanced training program. Finally, the team is looking to see how results vary based on school and school referral team traits.

Families of students with mental health concerns, school staff, community members, and staff from SBMH delivery systems are helping to conduct the study.

Research methods at a glance

Design Element Description
Design Randomized controlled trial
Population 19,106 students and school referral team members at 40 elementary schools within 3–4 school districts that have SBMH services
  • SBMH screening
  • SBMH screening with advanced training for school referral teams

Primary: referral to mental health services, receipt of mental health services, number of students referred to a mental health intervention

Secondary: in-school and out-of-school suspensions

Timeframe Timeframe Length of follow-up for collecting data on primary outcomes. View Glossary Up to 2-year follow-up for primary outcomes

Project Information

Joni Splett, PhD
Colleen Halliday-Boykins
University of Florida
Patient-Centered Equity Enhancements to Reduce Disproportionate Unmet Mental Health Need of African-American Children

Key Dates

December 2021
March 2028

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: March 14, 2024