Mental Health & Substance Use

We want students to feel safe and have the support they need to be successful at school. In spring 2019, we are piloting a new mental health and substance use screening and intervention program at our middle schools.

This new program will help us identify students’ strengths and needs so that we can connect those who need extra support with services or programs to help them succeed.

Participation is voluntary. Responses are confidential, though parents and legal guardians may review responses.  

This new program is in partnership with King County Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS). It is funded by King County’s Best Starts for Kids initiative. The goal is to reduce adolescent substance use, and support students’ physical, emotional and social well-being. In addition to Highline, this program is being piloted in 11 other school districts in King County.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the screening and intervention program called and how does it work?

The program is called SBIRT, which stands for screening, brief intervention and referral to services and treatment. The goal of SBIRT is to identify students who may need extra support and ensure they are connected with services or programs that will help them succeed.

Screening: During the online 10-15 minute screening, students will answer questions about their strengths, goals, substance use, mental health and safety. The screening was developed by Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington with Tickit Health. It is designed to determine whether a student may or may not need additional support.

Brief Intervention: Based on results from the screening, the student support team will connect with students who indicated higher levels of risk or requested additional support.

Referral to Services: If additional services are needed, the student support team may collaborate with the student and guardian/parent to create a plan. Parents and/or legal guardians will also be notified if additional services are immediately needed.

What questions are asked during the screening?

Screening questions cover four main areas:

  • Strengths: goals, supportive relationships and school connectedness
  • Substance Use: use in the past year and frequency of use
  • Mental Health: anxiety, depression, trauma symptoms, suicide and self-harm thoughts
  • Safety: harassment, feeling safe at school and context at home

Who will take the screening? When will this take place?

In spring 2019, we will pilot the program with some eighth-grade classes at Cascade, Chinook, Pacific and Sylvester middle schools. All families of eighth-graders will receive a letter prior to student participation and can choose to excuse their student from the process. Not all students will be selected during the pilot year. The screening will be staggered throughout the year. Additional support from outside agencies will be brought into the school to ensure student concerns can be addressed quickly and appropriately.

Is taking the screening voluntary?

Participation is voluntary. All families of eighth-graders will receive a letter prior to student participation and can choose to excuse their student from the process. Students can also tell their teacher if they do not want to participate. There is no penalty for declining to participate, and your student’s grades will not be affected.

How is student identity protected?

The screening software, called Check Yourself, is HIPAA compliant, password protected and meets personal health information privacy and security standards. Student responses will only be viewed by the student support team. Researchers at UW will have access to survey data that omits students names.

Who is on the student support team?

The student support team includes the school counselor, school social worker, program coordinator and a prevention/interventionist. The team may also include the dean of students, re-engagement specialist and school nurse.

How is the screening different from the Healthy Youth Survey?

The Healthy Youth Survey is a statewide survey conducted every two years by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction for 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders.  Data collected looks at schoolwide trends and patterns of adolescent health. Tickit Health, the new screening tool asks fewer questions than the Healthy Youth Survey and provides the school support team results for individual students, which allow them to respond to individual student needs.

How are the screening results used?

The goal is to provide the student support team with information about the current needs of students in order to connect them with appropriate resources. Information from the screening, with identifying information omitted, will also be shared for the purpose of evaluating the effectiveness of the SBIRT program and to further assess the needs of students.

How is the screening funded?

We are partnering with King County Department of Community and Human Services, to implement the new program. It is a three-year grant funded by King County’s Best Starts for Kids initiative.


Brittney Westgard
Project Coordinator
Cascade: 206-631-5570
Sylvester: 206-631-6068

Laiza Ortiz
Project Coordinator  
Chinook: 206-631-5752
Pacific: 206-631-5812