School Behavioral Health Collaborative- Battle Creek, MI

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Project at a Glance

  • Issue Area Education and youth, Social services
  • Engagement Approaches Commissions/taskforces, Surveys and data, Youth Engagement
Project Description

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School Behavioral Health Collaborative

To address the behavioral crisis events students were experiencing the Battle Creek School District, the school district partnered with community organizations to develop a comprehensive behavior education plan focused on providing students and families with services.

To ensure that all students in the Battle Creek Public School District (BCPS) are socially and emotionally supported and ready to learn.

Project Summary:
In 2017 a study of community educational outcomes, policies and practices raised several concerns about the state of the BCPS. Additionally, a number of behavioral crisis events occurred in the district and it became clear that something needed to be done.

Therefore, in November 2017, a Call to Action was issued by the Battle Creek Public School District. Battle Creek Community Foundation, BC Vision, and Regional Health Alliance, responded to this vision by convening over a dozen community partners with the following goals in mind:

  • Create a call to action which will collectively engage the various community partners and service organizations in addressing behavioral health issues among children attending BCPS;
  • Learn from the superintendent what types of troubling behaviors are being experienced, at what age levels, and what current protocols are in place for addressing these behaviors; and
  • Ultimately create a cross-systems protocol that results in intentional pathways for families and children to receive services.

The School Behavioral Health Collaborative was subsequently created as a multi-sector collaborative that utilizes trauma-informed practices to support the social and emotional well-being of students  with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all students are able to learn.

A shared vision has been created by the collaborative to ensure that all BCPS children are socially and emotionally supported and ready to learn. In support of this vision, four areas of work have been developed under the Bearcat Health umbrella: Peer Review, Child Fusion, Chronic Absenteeism, and School Climate.

  • Peer Review: Peer Review is a coordinated approach to counseling, psychological and social services, as well as health services, that includes deep collaboration by community partners. Through this process children with severe behavioral issues, and their families, are connected with community mental health services. The process is unique in family members are invited to engage in discussions around their child’s mental health, and that group meetings with school staff, mental health providers, and family members are held to build trust and understanding. The collaborative has worked hard to ensure that there is coordination among in-school and out-of-school interventions.
  • Child Fusion: The child fusion team is similar to the peer review team, however, in the case of child fusion cases, parents have not, or are unwilling to engage in the process and/or the student is being supervised by juvenile probation. Due to the nature of the cases, and potential for educational or child neglect cases, Child Protective Services, Juvenile Probation, and Battle Creek Police Department are key partners in this work. Part of this work included a Risk Assessment Training for staff at BCPS and partners to learn more about identifying risk factors within the school work in a collaboratively and proactive way to address safety concerns.
  • Chronic Absenteeism: Through the Chronic Absenteeism work, BCPS is working with Attendance Works to develop systems to combat Chronic Absenteeism especially among kindergarten and first graders, and truancy for upper grade levels including. Efforts include: identifying and addressing factors contributing to chronic absenteeism and habitual truancy; evaluating the effectiveness of strategies implemented to reduce chronic absenteeism rates; and identifying the specific school attendance barriers faced by children in poverty, foster youth, homeless youth, and any other significant student population with high chronic absenteeism rates.
  • School Climate: In support of school climate, BCPS is working with Starr Commonwealth to develop systems and supports to create positive social-emotional environments. The current focus of the work is Northwest Middle School. The school climate model combines key components of Starr’s Global Learning Network’s (SGLN) training models: The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC), which focuses on bringing out the best in every traumatized child; Reclaiming Youth International (RYI), using the Circle of Courage to provide the philosophical foundation for positive youth development; and Glasswing, addressing issues related to marginalized groups excluded from belonging. Throughout the 2018/19 and 2019/20 schoo -years Starr is embedding a SGLN professional to train, coach, and mentor within the school on a daily basis. This professional provides on-the-ground support serving as a staff member who is an expert trained in SGLN positive youth development, trauma, and racial healing approaches.

It was determined that for this model to be successful, that it is crucial to have the involvement of parents. A “Parent Academy” has been established to create a supportive culture that encourages family participation in working with teachers and interacting with children from a resilience-focused and trauma-informed perspective. Parents are provided with ideas and tools to help support their child’s learning and development at home while encouraging healthy parent-teacher relationships and regular communication as an integral part of that process. Furthermore, Family Advocates are located in various BCPS schools, the Family Advocate is a “liaison” between families and school, who’s primary function is to connect home and school in a positive, respectful and welcoming manner. 

Lastly, the Handle With Care program was developed in collaboration with the Battle Creek Police Department. Handle With Care is a support system and partnership between the Battle Creek Public Schools and the Battle Creek Police Department to notify the school of any children who may need additional support based on circumstances that led to contact with police officers. The reporting system begins when a Battle Creek Police officer encounters a child during a call. That child’s name and age are forwarded to the school before the school bell rings the next day. The school implements individual support of that child by checking in with them to determine if any interventions are needed. School staff do not know any details of the student’s case but ensure the student is “Handled With Care”. If a child needs more intervention, on-site support is available at the school or students are referred to partner organizations in the community. 

Engagement Strategies:

  • Dozens of community partners were engaged by the school district to create a shared vision for addressing behavioral concerns.
  • A collaborative of community partners was created to address the problem in a way that engages all important stakeholders.
  • A Parent Academy was established to create a supportive culture that encourages family participation in working with teachers and interacting with children.
  • The collaborative established a partnership with the police department to better serve children who may need additional support based on circumstances that led to contact with police officers. 


  • 23 children are receiving wrap-around mental health services, and 22 children’s cases are in the process of being reviewed.
  • School staff have reported significant improvements in student behavior, resulting in decreased out of classroom incidences.
  • 15 youth have been served by the Child Fusion team and 22 more cases are under review.

Additional Resources
Battle Creek, MI- 2019 AAC Winner: Presentation
Local Contact
Brenda Hunt
President & CEO, Battle Creek Community Foundation
(269) 962-2181
[email protected]

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