UMass Boston

Research and Evaluation

Research Briefs

Access to Professional Support Personnel post COVID-19


The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) licenses Professional Support Personnel (PSP), and these credentialed professionals are employed by the local and regional public-school districts throughout Massachusetts. This research brief examines the number of PSP staff employed by public schools prior to and after the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please click here to access the full report. 





School-Based Behavioral Health Technical Assistance Center


98% of school-based professionals surveyed reported that they would use a school-based behavioral health technical assistance (TA) center. Schools want help in supporting the behavioral health needs of students! The BIRCh Project received funding in partnership with MAMH to plan for the implementation of a school-based behavioral health TA center. Please check out our TA center report to learn more. More planning will be done in the upcoming year (thanks to the legislature for prioritizing children's behavioral health!) and we would welcome your feedback!

Technical Report 2020


Access to critical school-based behavioral health services varies significantly across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This technical report summarizes findings from an ongoing resource mapping project focused on workforce capacity, state-funded grants, and Educational Collaborative membership. 

Access to School-Based Behavioral Health Services

In 2007, federal Judge Ponsor determined in the Rosie D vs Commonwealth case that “thousands of Massachusetts children with serious emotional disturbance are forced to endure unnecessary confinement in residential facilities or to remain in costly institutions far longer than their medical conditions require.” The compensatory plan, known as the Children’s Behavioral  Health Initiative, was designed to strengthen the capacity of community-based behavioral health services, and consequently, returned children with intensive behavioral health needs to the community. 

Efforts to strengthen access to community mental health services was organized through the Department of Mental Health’s Community Service Agencies (CSA); however, concomitant supports were not similarly integrated into the public schools for these children. A recent focus group, sponsored by the Safe and Supportive School Commission , highlighted the current issues of 55 educators participating in the Massachusetts School Mental Health Consortium. There are ongoing concerns regarding the overwhelming mental health needs of students, insurance and geographic barriers, inadequate numbers of culturally and linguistically diverse providers, and the lack of adequate access to school-based behavioral health providers. 

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) co-chairs the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission which was created as part of the Safe and Supportive Schools Framework Law (Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 69, section 1P), through An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence. Chapter 284 of the Acts of 2014 was signed into law on August 13, 2014 (House Bill 4376). Safe and supportive schools have been defined as “schools that foster a safe, positive, healthy and inclusive whole-school learning environment that: (i) enables students to develop positive relationships with adults and peers, regulate their emotions and behavior, achieve academic and non-academic success in school and maintain physical and psychological health and well-being; and (ii) integrates services and aligns initiatives that promote students' behavioral health, including social and emotional learning, bullying prevention, trauma sensitivity, dropout prevention, truancy reduction, children's mental health, foster care and homeless youth education, inclusion of students with disabilities, positive behavioral approaches that reduce suspensions and expulsions and other similar initiatives.”

These research briefs compare current staffing ratios of licensed Professional Support Personnel in four areas¾ School Counselor, School Psychologist, School Social Worker/Adjustment Counselor, and School Nurse – with the recommendations of national professional organizations. These professionals are credentialed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and employed by the local and regional public school districts throughout Massachusetts. Briefs also examine access to staffing based on the level of economic disadvantage of students and offer policy strategies to address gaps in access to services.

Briefs and Recommendations

Access to Professional Support Personnel based on Student Economic Need in Massachusetts Public Schools


Access to Professional Support Personnel in Massachusetts Public Schools

Map of Massachusetts public schools with high economic need and limited access to school based support

BIRCh Webinar: Access to School-Based Behavioral Health Services in Massachusetts 

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Behavioral Health Integrated Resources for Children Project

100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125