New Jersey Department of Education

As Chair of the National Governors Association (NGA), New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy prioritized concerns around youth mental health which led to the development of the "Strengthening Youth Mental Health Initiative." This initiative was a collaborative endeavor of over 500 stakeholders and resulted in the creation of Strengthening Youth Mental Health: A Governor’s Playbook.

"The Strengthening Youth Mental Health Initiative consists of four pillars that address the core challenges to a system that supports youth and helps their mental well-being. Altogether, the four pillars address the continuum of youth mental health, helping states to address the needs of youth in crisis today, while ensuring that systems focus on holistically supporting youth mental well-being to help future generations succeed" (NGA, 2023).

The four pillars are:

  1. Addressing prevention and building resilience: Supporting youth with the necessary tools to respond to stressors and challenges, reducing the risk of mental health conditions, and proactively identifying and managing existing conditions to prevent crises.
  2. Increasing awareness and reducing stigma: Promoting awareness of mental health knowledge and resources, and decreasing the social, self and structural stigma around youth mental health challenges.
  3. Ensuring access and affordability of quality treatment and care: Removing the barriers to care, including unaffordable costs, lack of insurance coverage and a depleted workforce to ensure that high-quality, trauma-informed and culturally relevant care is accessible to youth in appropriate places, spaces and timeframes to meet their needs.
  4. Training and supporting caregivers and educators: Expanding training and supports so that those caring for and interacting with youth daily have the understanding and tools to identify mental health needs to access relevant supports.

The New Jersey Department of Education continues to prioritize school-based mental health services. In 2022, the NJDOE released the New Jersey Comprehensive School-Based Mental Health Guide which identified that "to build and sustain a comprehensive school mental health system [it] requires diverse sources of funding. Schools and districts must continuously seek new funding opportunities from federal/national, state and local sources, so adequate funding can be allocated at each tier. Schools and districts also need to examine what current practices are ineffective or repetitive and should be discontinued, so funds can be redirected towards implementation of effective practices. Evaluating and documenting the impact of practices is necessary for local financial decisions, but also to inform district and state level policies that impact funding and resource allocation" (NJDOE, 2022). A comprehensive list of current projects, initiatives and proposed activities to support youth mental health, aligned with the four pillars, are provided below. 

Potential Funding Opportunities

Pillar I

hexagon with title of pillar I

  • Incorporate trauma-informed practices and social-emotional learning into classroom instruction.
  • Implement school climate improvement plans based upon assessment of need to foster a safe, supportive environment that promotes positive student development and well-being.
  • Create partnerships with appropriate mental health providers to perform risk assessments for students in crisis and to directly link students to appropriate community-based services.
  • Support or enhance suicide prevention programming.
  • Create and/or enhance a designated space in the school building for students to access that promotes wellness and proactive coping strategies (e.g., Calming Corner, Peace Place, Wellness Room, etc.).
Pillar II

hexagon with title of pillar II

  • Invest in use of digital tools to enable students to repot mental health issues and be connected to help.
  • Partner with experts to develop mental health curricula materials.
  • Designate certificated staff and/or contracted providers to assess students who show signs of mental health concerns, including trauma.
  • Purchase valid and reliable assessment tools to assist in identifying students’ mental health needs.
  • Purchase evidence-based interventions to support identified student needs.
  • Provide staff (e.g., consultants, additional counseling staff, aides) to assist with transition of students who may have been placed in out-of-school setting for Tier 3 intervention as they return to their home school.
Pillar III

ensuring access and affordability of quality treatment and care

  • Increase the number of school-based mental health providers.
  • Contract with a mental health provider to provide individual and group therapeutic services to identified students.
  • Contract with mental health professionals to provide professional learning to support high need student populations.
  • Provide certificated staff for home visits to follow-up on students who are identified through early-warning systems.
  • Develop a systematic approach to reduce chronic absenteeism and obtain evidence-based interventions.
  • Purchase or subscribe to a HIPAA-compliant platform for identified school-based mental health staff to store counseling notes and information.
  • Provide staff to implement mentoring programs, group interventions, check-in/check-out systems, and/or in school skill building groups for students who are identified as needing additional social-emotional mental health supports.
Pillar IV

training and supporting caregivers and educators

  • Provide professional development opportunities for educators in areas such as:
    • Suicide prevention.
    • Trauma informed & healing centered supports.
    • Social and emotional learning.
    • Comprehensive school-based mental health systems.
    • Supporting positive behaviors and developing plans for behavior interventions.
    • Crisis intervention skills.
  • Provide workshop opportunities for families in areas such as:
    • Stress management and well-being.
    • Parenting strategies.
    • Parenting groups based on the identified needs.
    • Cultural diversity and inclusion.
    • Fostering resilience and other healthy coping strategies.
    • Note: LEAs may find it helpful to establish partnerships with mental health agencies to provide workshops to families.
  • Fund substitutes to cover release time for staff to attend trainings and participate in local County Children’s Interagency Coordination Council (CIACC), County Ed partnerships, and/or Youth Services Advisory Councils.
  • Contract with a provider to offer faculty/staff well-being support groups.
Page Last Updated: 10/17/2023

to top