School-Based Mental Health Program Making an Impact in King County Schools  

In the four years since the School-Based Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to services or Treatment (SB SBIRT) began in King County, more than 25,000 middle school students were screened, more than 11,500 students completed a connection to services or treatment either internally at their school or with external mental health professionals, and more than half of the students developed stronger connections to adults in their schools.  

When students build relationships with adults in schools – teachers, counselors, coaches, etc. – they feel safe asking for help. The Journal of Adolescent Health supports this model and recently published how SB SBIRT increased school connection after students received a brief intervention. 

SB-SBIRT program was implemented in 42 middle schools across 11 school districts in King County from September 2018 – June 2022 and served 834 high school students, 70 percent received brief intervention and 46 percent received a referral/resource. Anxiety (30 percent) and depression (25 percent) were the most common risk factors identified at screening for high schoolers.   

As youth continue to voice urgent mental health needs, schools struggle to staff counselors and psychologists, and leading health care organizations are calling for renewed action, SB-SBIRT is an example of investments in mental health supports for King County youth that’s making a difference.  

SB-SBIRT promotes social and emotional health and preventing substance use for students. Once a student fills out a brief survey ranging from their goals and identity to substance use, they are offered opportunities to connect to individualized resources and speak with a caring adult who has been trained in the model. 

Margaret Soukup, the SB SBIRT lead for King County is presenting to the Health Care Authority next month about the impacts of this program over the past four years. The event is on December 7, 2022, at 10:30 a.m. You can register for the event here.  

The School-Based SBIRT model was adapted by Reclaiming Futures (Portland State University) in collaboration with cross-divisional support by King County, including Best Starts for Kids and the Behavioral Health and Recovery Division in the Department of Community and Human Services, and informed by community partners, leaders in education, mental health professionals—all committed to health promotion, preventing youth suicide and building resources to support the young people of King County. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How does SB SBIRT work?  

Screening: SBIRT begins with an interactive, youth friendly survey. The Check Yourself survey is a secure, web-based application developed by Seattle Children’s Hospital. The survey asks questions about students’ strengths, substance use, social and emotional health, and safety.  

Brief intervention: If students answers indicate they may be struggling, or if students indicate on the survey that they would like to talk further, students meet with a staff member trained in the model. These conversations put a students’ answers on the survey into context, and helps students consider their goals and explore what motivates them.  

Referral to services or treatment: Staff trained in the model connect students who would benefit from further support to individualized resources, which might include academic support, mentoring, social activities, or behavioral health services

Is school-based SBIRT supported by evidence?  

  • The Check Yourself program has validated screening tools embedded within the program and is an important innovation to fill a gap in strengths based, youth health promotion and substance use prevention interventions that is tailored to King County communities. 

Are parents or caregivers notified?   

  • Yes, parents and caregivers are provided notice and parental consent is required.  
  • Parents and caregivers have the option to opt their student out of the program.  

Is student information confidential?  

  • Yes, a secure Data Dashboard (Tickit Health) captures survey data and de-identifies the data, displays summary reports of student responses and is the administrative hub for a variety of features, including safety alerts and downloading Excel files of aggregated data.  
  • Check Yourself is HIPAA and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) compliant with password protection and meets personal health information privacy and security standards.