BCBSND Caring Foundation considered many options when choosing partners for providing behavioral health care to students. There were two main takeaways from the foundation’s research.
First, BCBSND Caring Foundation saw the benefits of using telehealth instead of embedding therapists at schools because access to BH providers is limited, especially in a rural environment. The grants fund 30-minute virtual sessions with master’s level social workers via iPads.
Second, BCBSND Caring Foundation wanted school districts to choose the provider that best met their needs. For example, some schools chose to partner with Avera Health Systems, which is headquartered in a neighboring state. Finding the perfect partner does not need to be restricted by state lines. While Avera is in South Dakota, its staff are also licensed to operate in North Dakota.
BCBSND Caring Foundation fully supports the school districts’ choice of provider partners. One important lesson from the partnership is that schools should work with therapists who have expertise in treating depression and anxiety, the two most common behavioral health conditions for the young population. For more severe conditions, the therapists should know other specialists they could refer the student to.
The therapists should also be trained in care coordination. If the therapist feels that medication may be useful to the student, they will contact the child’s family and primary care provider, who can assess the student and prescribe medication if necessary.