Washington State Department of Social and Health Services

Research & Data Analysis Division


Publication cover for 'Behavioral Health Needs and School Success'

Jul 13 | 11.194 | Online Library

Behavioral Health Needs and School Success

Youth with Mental Health and Substance Abuse Problems are at Risk for Poor High School Performance

This report describes the complex relationships between behavioral health, risk factors associated with social and health service needs, and high school progress and outcomes for DSHS clients who began 9th grade in 2005-06. Among 28,922 DSHS 9th graders, 40 percent had behavioral health service needs reflected in administrative data—either mental health needs, substance abuse needs, or both (co-occurring). Youth with behavioral health needs were less likely to graduate from and more likely to drop-out of high school and had poor test outcomes compared to peers without mental health or substance abuse problems. Graduation rates varied by diagnostic category, with the lowest graduation rates found among youth with substance abuse, psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder and/or ADHD. Youth with behavioral health needs were also more likely to experience an array of challenges and risk factors associated with educational failure, including juvenile justice involvement, homelessness, early childbirth, school changes and emergency room use. DSHS service use patterns suggest that youth with behavioral health needs were often living in difficult family situations, including both abuse/neglect and deeper poverty levels. These findings highlight the importance of integrated services and information sharing across systems serving children with behavioral health needs.