UW–Madison researchers secure grants to study mental health interventions in schools

A team of researchers from UW–Madison was recently awarded two grants to examine brief mental health interventions that are designed for use in schools.

An overarching goal of these projects, which are funded via the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES), is to test strategies that schools can use to support students who are at risk for social-emotional and behavioral concerns.

“Research suggests one-in-five youth will experience mental health concerns,” says Stephen Kilgus, an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology who is helping lead both projects. “By helping schools to intervene early with these students, we hope to prevent their concerns from turning into more significant problems later on.”

The first grant is worth $1.38 million and will support the continued development of the Resilience Education Program (REP), which is a small-group intervention for fourth- through eighth-grade students at risk for depression and anxiety. This program will be tested across multiple school districts in Wisconsin. Kilgus is the principal investigator (PI), Katie Eklund, an assistant professor with the Department of Educational Psychology, is co-PI, and Andy Garbacz, an assistant professor with that same department, is a co-investigator. The research team also includes colleagues from the University of Missouri.The second grant, worth $3.27 million, will examine the efficacy of Check In/Check Out (CICO) at the elementary school level. CICO is an intervention designed to provide positive reinforcement via an adult mentor to students who commonly display disruptive or off-task behaviors. This intervention will be evaluated in urban, suburban, and rural school districts in Missouri, Kansas, and Wisconsin. This grant was awarded to UW-Madison, with Kilgus and Eklund co-principal investigators. The University of Missouri’s Tim Lewis is the PI, while the University of Kansas’ Howard Wills is a co-PI.

Both projects will be coordinated through the School Mental Health Collaborative (SMHC), a research center co-directed by Kilgus, Eklund and Garbacz. All three are faculty members with UW–Madison’s school psychology program.

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