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On June 11th &12th, approximately 85 persons from across the state, representing state agencies (Dept of Ed Iowa Department of Education, IDPH, all AEAs Iowa's Area Education Agencies, ISEA ISEA, ISCA, IASP Iowa School Psychologists, ISSW, Orchard Place, Tanager Place, CommUnity, Iowa Office of Latino Affairs, University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, Buena Vista University, MHTTC, Boys Town, EFR, United Way, Mid Iowa Health Foundation, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, many school representatives from superintendents to teachers to school counselors, youth, and every other group we’ve forgotten, convened with laser action focus to change the landscape of school mental health across Iowa.

We brought in national experts Mark Weist, Kelly Perales, and Nancy Lever to teach us and set the foundation. We divided into four workgroups (communication, family engagement, evidence-based practice, and legislation), and we started our strategic plan to DO BETTER FOR OUR YOUTH, FAMILIES, SCHOOLS, and COMMUNITIES. This is not easy work, it cannot be done alone, but it is absolutely necessary to improve the youth mental health epidemic in our state.

There has never been an initiative to the depth and capacity of this to take us to a far better place than we are in currently. We have only begun this work, and we recognize we need many, many more voices at the table.

This is a brief video to bring all potential participants up-to-speed in the quickest fashion. Watch this link BEFORE you commit to joining the COP:​

Check out our 2020 Legislative Priorities

Currently, Iowa has a very ad hoc approach to school mental health with a variety of agencies and entities doing amazing work, but lack of an organized system to maximize on best practice as well as communication and understanding. The intention of this opportunity is to bring together a large number of diverse stakeholders, beyond just decision makers, to have a better understanding of what school mental health in Iowa looks like, what is currently being done, assess target goal areas, develop a sustainable statewide action plan, and to create an ongoing community of practice to progress the school mental health work.

Currently, there are four practice groups within the ISMHA, as well as their working goals. If you are able to join us, we will provide you with far more information within our collaborative workspaces:

Facilitators: Maria Lantz &; Lynn O'Brien, Kathleen Hanafran

Family Engagement
Facilitators: Stephanie McFarland & Casey McMurray

Facilitators: Nicole Skaar & Emilie Souhrada

Evidence-Based Practice
Facilitators: Dana Miller & Carol Sensor

ISMHA Director
Sonia Reyes-Snyder

Each group has different digital meeting dates/times planned. If you are interested, please complete the following brief link for us to gather your contact information and practice group request. We will then connect you with your respective practice group leaders.

Communities of Practice


Goal: Create a sustainable communication system that connects all stakeholders,
builds the capacity of available resources, educates and builds school mental health
systems awareness.

● Develop a system for all stakeholders to communicate updates and reflections
as well as collaborations.

● Assist with the buiCreate a messaging document that defines and develops
universal language explaining school mental health systems.

● Delding of an online digital arsenal of resources by county, AEA, district and/or
Leaders: Maria Lantz and Lynn O’Brien and Kathleen Hanafran
Subgroups: Internal Communication, External Communication, Resources, Student
Advocacy, Branding and Messaging

Family Engagement

Goal: Define family engagement in a school mental health system using a cultural lens
as well as using interactions and relationships as building techniques to gain knowledge
on how to bring families to the table regarding school mental health.

● Develop a school mental health toolkit for parents and students.

● Develop a school mental health toolkit for educators.
Leaders: Casey McMurray, Stephanie McFarland Subgroups: Family Feedback Definition of Family Engagement Toolkits

Evidence Based Practices

Goal: Every district implements a sustainable birth to 21 multi-tiered system of support
with evidence-based practices to maximize student well-being.

● Role Definition: role definition, support of professionals to work at the top of
their credentials. ● Implementation: aligning districts, fidelity/accountability, admin & stakeholder
buy-in/beliefs, understanding of behavior (MTSS), infrastructure (PD, time,
people, funding), continuity across districts, implementation science, and
assessment (what data?) ● Content: preparation, installation, implementation, & sustainability

Leaders: Dana Miller & Carol Sensor

Subgroups: Role Definition, Implementation, Content


Goal: By the end of the 2020 legislative session, Iowa School Mental Health Alliance
strengthen Iowan’s engagement in and advocacy for school mental health legislation to increase equitable access to services.

● Invite stakeholders to join COP

● Create data-driven talking points

● Each member of the group will build a relationship with at least one legislator
/decision maker/ influencer in the state

● Facilitate the passing of legislation Influence bills of interest

● Make policy and practice recommendations

Leaders: Emilie Souhrada, Nicki Skaar

Subgroups: Existing Educational Data, Non-existing school service provider data, Current
state legislation and existing model legislation, In state and out of state programs to
highlight, Policy and practice