Kent Roosevelt High School teams up with Kent State & Akron Children’s Hospital to bring mental health screenings to students

By Sam Karam and Kellie Nock

Image courtesy of Kent Roosevelt High School

Kent Roosevelt High School (KRHS) is partnering with Kent State nursing students and Akron Children’s Hospital to bring mental health screenings to its students.

“As part of a combination of grants, including a $3,000 pilot grant, ninth graders at Roosevelt will be involved in mental health screening in their Health Education classes,” the KRHS website states.

Kent State nursing students will screen the high schoolers in health classes for substance abuse, depression and anxiety. After the screening, students with any of these issues can attend up to eight counseling sessions through Kent State or Akron Children’s to talk through the issues and create a plan of assistance.


Info Courtesy of the National Alliance of Mental Illness

Kim Williams, the coordinator of the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner concentration at Kent State University, helped to organize this program. As both a nurse practitioner and educator, Williams current research focuses on Screening Brief Intervention Referral to Therapy or SBRIT and Motivational Interviewing.

“My area is non-suicidal self-injury,” Williams said. “And a lot of things that are associated with that are depression and substance use. So I had been looking at creating a screening tool for non-suicidal self-injury, and it’s kind of grown to incorporating the depression, anxiety and substance use screening.”

The idea came about when Williams spoke to a community health nurse practicing her clinical rotations through the schools, and she suggested having her students participate in the screenings.

The initial meeting to discuss the idea occurred last June.

“We were really embraced,” Williams said. “Which was kind of surprising. They really wanted to help with the mental health issues that are going on in the school systems these days.”

Students will be classified between low, moderate and high risk. Moderate risk students will be able to utilize “motivational interviewing,” as a first-step. High risk students will be referred to school resources such as counseling or school psychologists. Akron Children’s Hospital is also able to provide resources for high risk students.

Photo of Michele Wilmoth and Kim Williams
From left to right: Michele Wilmoth and Kim Williams

Michele Wilmoth, director of School Health Services at Akron Children’s Hospital, worked with Williams to develop the program for the students at Kent Roosevelt.

“Early intervention is the key,” Wilmoth said. “By doing the screening and asking the questions, that you might catch someone who is having some risky behaviors where choices could be made in a more positive way.”

As a transplant from the South, Williams said her surprise came because school systems are often hard to get into.

“Mental health is kind of one of those areas that people don’t want to get too involved in because of some of the stigma that surrounds it,” Williams said. “And so, being accepted that we could do some screening and actually provide school-based intervention was a surprise for me…”

Wilmoth, who works with the schools to coordinate health programs like these, said that the school wants to provide services for the children first.

“The superintendent of Kent city schools, that he is really looking at the whole child,” Wilmoth said. “You can’t just look at academics, you need to look at the impact of health on those academics, and he recognizes that. So he’s always been very supportive of health initiatives in that district too.”

The National Alliance on Mental Health’s website states, “Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life.”

KRHS Principal Dennis Love said the school is still waiting on an exact date from the partners, but it is probably going to happen sometime in April.

Williams said that they are in the second phase of going through the Institutional Review Board, or the IRB Committee at Akron Children’s Hospital. They are currently reviewing the request to begin this program in the school system.

They are expecting IRB approval within the next month.

“It keeps getting pushed back and I don’t think it’s any fault from Akron Children’s or Kent State,” Love said. “It just has to do with the process they need to go through to get the materials and money and support.”

Photo of KRHS Principal Dennis Love
KRHS Principal Dennis Love poses for a portrait. Photo Courtesy of Dennis Love.

Love attended a meeting at the school board office in spring of last year and that’s when they introduced  the idea of a health screening to him. He immediately assembled a team of high school counselors, school psychologists and health teachers to discuss the screening and formulate questions for the board and partners so they can have information ready for parents.

“Even though I had questions and concerns, I feel really good about working with both organizations. They’re very reputable,” Love said. “The screening is a great resource for us to know right away who needs assistance.”

The high school has counselors on site for each grade and pays local centers like Coleman Professional and Townhall II for additional services. There is also a resource officer who helps gets students pointed in the right direction.

Love said, since January, KRHS has been releasing students early on Wednesdays at 1:42 pm so teachers and administrators can participate in professional development initiatives. These sessions last until 3 pm. The first initiative is mental health awareness. They’ve spent seven or eight weeks going over articles, reviewing surveys completed by their students and finding as much information that they can about what bothers students. They’re focused on learning how best to approach and respond to mental health and substance abuse.

In addition to the professional development sessions, the Kent School District established a mental health program, “Red Flags K-12,” that helps teachers identify students with needs and what steps they should take after identifying.

“It’s made me a better administrator, it’s made me a better teacher, it’s made me a better father,” Love said, referring to educating himself on adolescent mental health issues.

Sam: Map, Love interview
Kellie: Infographic, Williams & Wilmoth Interview