Building a System of Care

Back view group of students

Rochester leads the way with embedded behavioral health supports.

Administrators at Rochester High School started to notice a considerable increase in behavior challenges about six years ago. The impact was significant, as teachers and administrators needed to spend more class time handling behavioral incidents. “It became a high-maintenance issue,” says Assistant Principal Kevin Wilson.

Around the same time, Superintendent Kim Fry and the leadership team at Rochester School District embarked on a study to determine how to improve the high school graduation rate and provide support for students who were not succeeding in the current system.

They discovered that some students were not succeeding because of social-emotional, or mental health reasons. Providing mental health supports is one way Rochester can fill in the gap for these students. The district partnered with ESD 113 to provide critical preventative services along with treatment services to ensure youth are able to get the support they need early.

Rochester High School Principal Matt Ishler recognizes that, for some students, just being able to be in a classroom appropriately is a huge step forward. “It’s a process,” he says. “We have to get there before we even start thinking about academics.”

A Team Effort

“The services at Rochester have been over five years in the making and have consisted of multiple partnerships to build a system of care that serves all youth with behavioral health needs,” says Erin Wick, ESD 113’s Senior Director of Behavioral Health and Student Support.

Thurston Mason Behavioral Health Organization, Joe Avalos and Dianna Cockrell, with Health Care Authority’s Department of Behavioral Health and Recovery, along with the Rochester School District administration, were integral in the startup of these services.

As the implementation developed, the need for more supports became apparent.

The Systems of Care Grant was awarded at the right time to continue to scale up this work. “We have been able to implement the next level of services in an effort to create a true multi-tiered system of care.”

Removing Barriers to Care

Access to care is a large factor to mental health in Rochester. “There are a lot of barriers due to being rural,” says mental health therapist Marisa Schaff.

Schaff and the team feel welcome in the close-knit Rochester community. “The administration is supportive of us, and helps us get what we need,” Schaff says. “They are wonderful.”

The relationships the team has built in school has also led to students referring their friends for services. “The kids actually make better referrals than the adults do,” says Schaff. “It’s coming from a peer, who is saying ‘I do it too, you’re not alone.’”

For more information about behavioral health supports, contact Erin Wick 360–464–6849
or [email protected]