Bainum Family Foundation Announces School Mental Health Initiative, Invests $4.1 Million to Expand
Services in D.C.

Work Will Be Conducted Through Partnership With The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health

Bethesda, Maryland (November 7, 2017) — Building on its commitment to improve the lives of children and families living in poverty in the District of Columbia’s Wards 7 and 8, the Bainum Family Foundation today announced investments of $4.1 million over four years to expand school mental health services in these wards.

This work will help the Foundation meet its 2020 strategic goal of adding 2,000 wrap-around support seats in Wards 7 and 8 to increase students’ social-emotional well-being, while sharing knowledge and lessons learned with the mental health field. It also complements the Foundation’s existing investments in early learning and food access for these same neighborhoods.

Conducted in partnership with the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools (CHHCS), part of the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, this effort began in 2016 with a comprehensive needs assessment in the District and a year-long learning partnership with two District charter schools (DC Prep and Monument Academy).

Findings of this initial work supported the development of a three-year strategy to increase mental health supports available to children and families in Wards 7 and 8 and to advance the overall field of school mental health. The strategy, which is being launched this Fall, includes:

  • Identifying a group of four charter elementary and middle schools in Wards 7 and 8 to participate in a Community of Practice. CHHCS and the Foundation will provide three years of training and technical assistance in the areas of mental health data, coordination and universal prevention as each school implements best practices tailored to its unique needs and then evaluates outcomes.
  • Convening and leading a District-wide Learning Community of local school mental health stakeholders (practitioners, researchers, policy makers and school administrators) to leverage existing expertise and coordinate and share resources. The group will launch in January and meet bimonthly.
  • Working with national partners — including CHHCS; the Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine; and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — to connect and convene national experts to advance school mental health. The goal of these meetings is to discuss local, state and federal strategies to strengthen the availability and quality of school mental health services for children, youth and families. The first of a series of meetings took place in D.C. in September 2017. The Foundation will be a key partner in gathering and disseminating relevant information to help strengthen the field.

“School mental health is a key element of our Foundation’s Wrap-Around Support strategy,” said Barbara Bainum, Chair of the Board, CEO and President of the Foundation. “Our mission is to support the whole child to help them thrive. This needs to include comprehensive supports to address children’s social and emotional development. Schools are an effective way to deliver such services because they already play a central role in the lives of children and families.”

According to Olga Acosta Price, PhD, Director of CHHCS and founding director of the District’s long-standing School Mental Health Program, the needs assessment affirmed the challenges faced by children and families in the east end: an elevated need for mental health services due to the high-stress factors that result from living in poverty, coupled with low availability of resources (clinics and practitioners) in their communities. Further, available services in D.C. focus largely on high-need children rather than early identification and prevention for all children.

“The District has a good record of investing in school mental health over the past two decades, but there are still gaps, a lack of coordination of services and no systematic way to make decisions or share resources,” Acosta Price said. “Through the new strategy we have developed with the Foundation, we aim to help schools adopt the most effective approaches known in the field, build their capacity to serve more children and families, and ensure the sustainability of school mental health supports over time.”

Nisha Sachdev, DrPh, PsyD, Senior Director of Evaluation for the Foundation, notes that mental health experts have coalesced around the evidence-based practices that produce the best outcomes in school settings. “The field knows what it takes to be effective; now it’s a matter of building scale and access and helping schools tailor programs to their specific needs,” she said. “Mental health services need to be an integrated and integral part of every educational environment. Children cannot succeed academically unless their social and emotional development needs are being addressed.”

The Foundation’s $4.1 million investment includes the initial needs assessment conducted by CHHCS and the Foundation in 2016, the technical assistance to be provided by CHHCS as part of the new three-year strategy, the local and national convenings, and other support for the four schools to be included in the Community of Practice. It also includes, as part of the learning partnership last year, $2.5 million to finance facility improvements at DC Prep and Monument Academy to help the schools create suitable environments for providing school mental health services.

Sachdev, Acosta Price and the Foundation’s Senior Director of Program Development Noel Bravo presented their research findings and the new strategy (“Bridging Research, Practice, Policy and Philanthropy to Build the Capacity of School-Based Mental Health Initiatives”) at the 22nd Annual Conference on Advancing School Mental Health. The conference, sponsored by the Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, was held October 19-21, 2017, at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

The Bainum Family Foundation combines proven expertise with a passion for supporting the whole child by providing integrated services to help them thrive. Our circle of collaboration includes investments and support in early learning, wrap-around services and knowledge building. Founded in 1968 by Stewart and Jane Bainum, the Foundation has helped underserved children exit poverty through high-quality educational programs and services for nearly 50 years. For more information, visit

The Center for Health and Health Care in Schools (CHHCS) supports child wellness and success in school by promoting collaborative solutions and partnerships in communities that bridge health and education. A nonpartisan organization with a strong national reputation in technical assistance, professional development, applying and translating research, and program evaluation, CHHCS uses a public health lens to apply its expertise in children’s health and education issues to build and sustain equitable environments for children to thrive.


Ann Egan
Senior Director of Communications
Bainum Family Foundation

Kathy Fackelmann
Director of Media Relations
Milken Institute School of Public Health
The George Washington University