Seeing the “C” in Boston Public Schools

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This is an Aspire Wire guest blog post by Jill Snyder, a member of the The Comprehensive Behavioral Health Model Communications and Research Committees.

Boston Public Schools has recently adopted the Comprehensive Behavioral Health Model (CBHM) to address the behavioral and mental health needs of Boston’s children. We use this Lighthouse Model to organize our various levels of systems and supports within schools.

CBHM Lighthouse model
The CBHM Lighthouse model. Please click on picture for larger image

Here is our elevator pitch (when reading, picture the elevator ride to the Top of the Hub, the restaurant on the 52nd floor of the Prudential Center in Boston, MA):

First, CBHM recognizes the fundamental need for students (for everyone!) to feel safe and supported. That’s why the foundation of our model is ensuring that all students have access to a safe and supportive school environment. We do this by building healthy relationships with all students – actually teaching kids how to behave in different settings, and also recognizing kids when they are behaving correctly.

Next, CBHM realizes that some kids will always need a little bit more to be successful. That’s why we develop additional supports to help kids who are struggling. Through the implementation of CBHM, schools have more tools in their toolbox to help kids who struggle with behavior or mental health.

Finally, CBHM recognizes the need for providing highly specialized and individualized supports for some students. That’s why we have highly specialized and trained professionals in our schools, including school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers, and community partners. CBHM helps school-based providers develop effective problem-solving and communication strategies so that services are consistent and coordinated.

As Jake Murray, the Senior Director of the Wheelock College Aspire Institute, notes, this is by no means easy work. Time and a lack of resources will always get in our way. Jake’s main point is that we need to back up and see the C in our Comprehensive Behavioral Health Model. His remarks remind me of a William Steig book that uses letters to convey phrases (e.g. CDC? translates to “see the sea?”).

William Steig CDC picThis works very well with our lighthouse model!

The CBHM lighthouse model is perfect for all kinds of nautical, navigational, and smooth-sailing analogies. I’ve chosen to talk about four things that we have going for us.

Four positives. Four things that we continuously call upon to help confront the obstacles we encounter. These Four “C’s” are critical to providing truly comprehensive care for children.

(Hope you’re not sick of my C’s yet – I’m just getting started!)

  1. Childhood – Science is on our side, people! Children are miraculously resilient. From in-utero development to high school graduation, children are constantly showing us how they learn, develop, grow and change. They surmount all kinds of challenges, often without skipping a beat. There is a lot we know about how we can help children tackle these challenges (hint: most of it involves teaching!). There is still a lot that we don’t understand. But what we do understand – is that children can. They can learn, they can question, they can investigate, and they can succeed.

Trusting children and having faith in the wonders of childhood can help educators “be the change they wish to [C] in the world.”

  1. Community – Another “C” we have on our side is community. When I talk with people about what CBHM is doing – or trying to do – in our schools, I don’t hear a lot of people challenging our goals. There is no good case to be made for not meeting the behavioral and mental health needs of children. Barriers, obstacles, restraints exist – of course. But when it comes to fundamental beliefs about schools and environments where children spend the most time during their first 18 years, most can agree that behavioral and mental health is important.

Involving communities in the adoption of comprehensive behavioral health models is one of the easiest ways to confront barriers.

  1. Commitment – Nobody goes into education because it’s easy. That bears repeating: Nobody goes into education because it’s easy. And, moreover, nobody lasts in education if they believe that it should be easy. People go into – and stay in – education because they are committed to children, to communities, and to making a difference.  Educators (I use that term broadly, to include principals, teachers, superintendents, school psychologists, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, etc.) are some of the most committed professionals I have ever had the pleasure of working with. These days, it feels like few understand – let alone appreciate – the lengths that educators will go to help… to help students, to help families, to help colleagues. CBHM provides educators with a shared vision so that efforts can be streamlined and more efficient.

Recognizing, appreciating and cherishing the commitment that educators (ALL educators) bring to the table is key to aligning services and supporting children and families.

  1. Collaboration & Communication – I almost left these out, because they seem to be unfortunate buzz words these days. But they’re so crucial! Big companies like Disney and Google have come so far – in part – because they have revolutionized collaboration and communication. Schools have a lot of room for improvement on methods of collaboration and communication, both internally and with external partners. Committing to implementing comprehensive behavioral health services requires schools to examine their current methods of collaboration & communication, and find ways to build upon them.

Reflecting upon and improving collaboration and communication strategies can help support schools in providing comprehensive behavioral health services to students.

CBHM Boston Public Schools logoThe Comprehensive Behavioral Health Model (CBHM) is a grassroots initiative developed by the Behavioral Health Staff in Boston Public Schools, including school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers and behavioral health support staff, in collaboration with and with support from Boston Children’s Hospital and UMASS Boston. CBHM has been adopted by Boston Public Schools, and is currently being implemented in 20 different schools across the city. To learn more about CBHM, please visit our website at

Jill SnyderJill Snyder is a School Psychologist for Boston Public Schools. She is a member of the CBHM Communications and Research Committees. 

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  1. I appreciate the work that you all are doing in Boston. I would like some employment leads for 2017 on your schools. I am a NYS School Psychologist. I will start an advanced ABA Program starting in late August at Hunter College. I intend to take the BCBA exam before I leave NY. Wishing you all continued success.

    Your model is one to be adapted in all states. Thank you