School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Education in Community Care and Counseling (EdD)


Richard Green


mental health, school referral system, adolescents, school counselors, minority




The purpose of this qualitative study was to evaluate a school-based referral system in northwest Missouri that is effectively able to identify students with mental health concerns, help students find treatment options, and provide any follow-up needed. The main focus in this qualitative case study was on what makes one school district in northwest Missouri have an effective and successful mental health referral system. The theory guiding this study was Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This motivational theory is a five-tier model of human needs, including physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Without having all these needs met, an individual cannot reach self-actualization. Data collection consisted of surveys, interviews, and a focus group with administrators, teachers, and school counselors directly involved with the mental health referral system. Findings showed that an effective school-based mental health referral system includes themes of communication, professional development, and student achievement. Including these themes in the school setting could result in districts successfully implementing effective mental health referral systems. Findings also suggested that successful mental health referral systems consider the mental health needs of all adolescents, not just minorities.

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