May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an important reminder about the significance of the topic.

At the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health, we treat every month as Mental (or Behavioral) Health Awareness Month because it is one of Idaho’s most-pressing health issues. We are experiencing a youth behavioral health crisis, and it’s our duty to be responsive to the needs of our state. Behavioral healthcare can help Idahoans live productive and happy lives.

Since all 44 Idaho counties have a behavioral health provider shortage, school districts are looking for other ways to help students and families. We partner with schools to provide behavioral health programs, trainings, and services to create environments that improve student well-being.

Here are some of the highlights of the work we are doing to improve youth behavioral health:

We launched Healthy Minds Partnership to help schools offer behavioral health counseling on campuses. The partnership is a collaborative effort between schools, behavioral healthcare providers and the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health. The program has been helping Idaho students and their families since 2017.

While the Healthy Minds Partnership is an intervention approach that greatly helps students, we support a system that includes prevention approaches that help mental health issues and problem behaviors from occurring in the first place. We support Idaho schools and districts that want help and training with resources such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). This evidence-based framework helps schools support academic, behavioral, emotional, and mental health.

We also support work led by Communities for Youth, an Idaho-based initiative focused on improving youth mental health and well-being. Communities for Youth uses an upstream prevention approach and works with key partners and stakeholders with the goal of promoting youth mental health in schools, neighborhoods, and cities.

Community Schools are another way to support behavioral health needs. Community Schools are local, public schools that bring community partners to the school to work together for the needs of the community through programs and services. Those services can include behavioral health services and supports. As a member of the Idaho Coalition for Community Schools, we are helping to bolster and expand the movement across the state. Thanks in part to efforts of the coalition, Idaho received a $46 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for this important work.

ECHO Idaho’s education series provides no-cost training opportunities for school-based professionals and clinicians to equip them with additional skills that will help in their efforts to improve the quality of life and well-being of their students. We support this education series, which includes K12 Behavioral Health, K12 Substance Use Prevention and Treatment, K12 School Nurses, and K12 Youth Suicide Prevention.

One way to increase the number of behavioral healthcare providers in our state is by supporting Idaho students’ efforts to become our next generation of providers through scholarships. We have scholarship programs with most Idaho colleges and universities, the majority of which are focused on healthcare professions, including counseling.

You can learn more about the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health by visiting our website, subscribing to our newsletter and following us on social media.