DAYTON, OHIO – The Montgomery County Educational Service Center (MCESC) today announced a partnership with mental health provider  Cartwheel to bring students and families rapid access to mental health care via telehealth with Ohio-licensed clinicians.

“Post-COVID, mental health challenges have gone up significantly across the country and in Montgomery County. Long waitlists for care have impacted students, families, and school staff,” said Amy Anyanwu, Assistant Superintendent, Montgomery County Educational Service Center. “It’s crucial to recognize that students grappling with deep sadness or anxiety shouldn’t be turned away or endure a four to six-month wait to see a therapist. Every child deserves timely access to the support they need during such challenging times. Our community health partners are doing what they can, but they are outnumbered. With our Cartwheel partnership, we’re taking one more step to get students access to the care they need when they need it.”

The partnership comes as youth mental health needs reach an all-time high in Montgomery County, Ohio and across the nation. According to the Montgomery County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS),  more than 20% of young people are experiencing a mental health disorder. In Ohio, suicide is now the  second leading cause of death among youth. These mental health challenges have also  spilled over into the classroom, for example by increasing chronic absenteeism and disciplinary issues such as suspensions and expulsions. 

Nationwide, according to the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the share of high school students feeling persistently sad or hopeless increased by 40%, and the share creating a suicide plan increased by 44% compared to prior decades. Over the past decade, suicide rates among youth have  increased by 57% overall. 

Four districts in Montgomery County have already joined the program, including Kettering, Miamisburg, Brookville, and Jefferson Township. Approximately 15,000 students across 27 schools in these districts can now access mental health services they wouldn’t otherwise have due to waitlists, insurance issues, language availability, transportation, and other barriers. Cartwheel’s services help address a range of common mental health conditions, from anxiety, depression, and executive functioning challenges, to loss and grief, stress, sleep issues, technology use, trauma, and more. The Montgomery County Educational Service Center has room to add a few districts to the partnership for the upcoming school year. 

“Our goal for partnering with MCESC and Cartwheel is to support our families in filling the gap between when mental health services are needed and when a student is actually connected to a provider. Our parents were consistently telling us that mental health support in our area was difficult to navigate and took an inordinate amount of time to access. Because of the long wait time, students were not getting the help they needed. Within a short period, we are helping to close the gap – and Cartwheel has been instrumental in that effort. Since January, we’ve already referred 30 students,” said Kathleen Lucas, Director of Student Services at Miamisburg City School District

Cartwheel’s program works as follows:

  1. Cartwheel works with each school to customize a referral process that fits seamlessly into their current system of mental health support.
  2. Once a referral is made, Cartwheel contacts the family within two days to schedule a one-hour virtual intake assessment with a licensed therapist. 
  3. After the first session, students can join ongoing weekly therapy sessions for up to 6 months. Sessions are held via a secure telehealth platform during the day as well as evenings, weekends, school breaks, and through the summer. 
  4. If requested by the student and family, Cartwheel’s team of psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners can also support medication evaluation and management. 
  5. For students who need more than 6 months of care, Cartwheel’s team of bilingual case managers assists families with referrals for longer-term services.
  6. For students who are too young to join telehealth sessions, their parents can meet one-on-one with a Cartwheel therapist for guidance sessions on how best to support their child. 

Since Cartwheel accepts all major Ohio insurance plans, including Medicaid, services are free or low cost for the vast majority of families. 

“I’ve been a clinical social worker for 30 years and am excited to support students in Montgomery County who are struggling with anxiety, depression, stress management, trauma, and life transitions,” said Kristin Rinehart, an Ohio-licensed therapist and Clinical Supervisor at Cartwheel currently working with students in Miamisburg, Kettering, Brookville, and Jefferson Township school districts.

Cartwheel’s services also help address record rates of  chronic absenteeism, with 26.8% of students in Ohio chronically absent during the 2022-23 school year, up from 16.7% in the 2018-2019 school year. 

“Mental health services delivered via telehealth can be highly effective in helping students manage anxiety around attending school, which when left unaddressed leads to  school refusal, school avoidance, and chronic absenteeism,” said Dr. Juliana Chen, Chief Medical Officer and Ohio-licensed child-adolescent psychiatrist at Cartwheel. “We’re excited to partner with Montgomery County Educational Service Center and local school districts to address these challenges.” 

As part of the program, districts are also receiving clinical consultations, parental education on mental health topics such as depression and anxiety, and ongoing case management to support students with longer-term or more specialized care needs. A clinically licensed Program Manager from Cartwheel is available to consult with school staff on student cases, family engagement, and staff professional development. 

About Montgomery County Educational Service Center

The Montgomery County Educational Service Center (MCESC) is a premier provider of high-quality, cost-effective, education services in Ohio. The MCESC serves 16 public school districts in Montgomery County and more than 130 educational entities in counties across the state of Ohio. MCESC provides direct student support services to districts as well as training for educators to improve teaching and learning and to develop teacher and administrative leadership. For more information, visit  https://www.mcesc.org/.

About Cartwheel

Cartwheel is the trusted mental health partner to schools, delivering rapid access to care for students and helping schools build stronger mental health programs that catch kids before they fall. Our evidence-based mental health program is designed around the entire school community. Our licensed therapists and child psychiatrists are diverse, culturally sensitive, and committed to affordable care for everyone—including uninsured families and those covered by Medicaid. Kids shouldn’t just aspire to get out of bed and drag themselves to class. They should be able to experience joy. They deserve to envision and build a life they’re excited to live. For more information, visit  www.cartwheel.org

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