Schools Take a Stand for Students Amidst the Growing Mental Health Crisis

4 Ohio School Districts Pilot a Three-Year Program to Integrate Additional Student Prevention and Wellness Strategies

(Columbus, April 20, 2023) – Among U.S. adolescents (aged 12-17), 20.1% experienced a major depressive episode (MDE) and 3.3 million had serious thoughts of suicide in 2021.[1] In Ohio alone, 13.1% of kids ages 3 – 17 had anxiety or depression in 2020. That is a 42.4% increase from 2016.[2]

Schools are experiencing the weight of those numbers firsthand. Teachers and faculty are seeing an increase in behavior issues, a growth in substance use for self-medicating, and more violence and physical aggression. They recognize the need and have a desire for prevention and wellness support but often lack access to training, resources, and infrastructure.

This past fall, Prevention Action Alliance, in collaboration with Education Development Center and Miami University’s Center for School-Based Mental Health Programs, launched the Prevention and Wellness Academy of Ohio with generous funding from the Anthem BlueCross and BlueShield Foundation.


“While awareness has improved in recent years, the data around behavioral health issues faced by school-age children clearly show we still have much work to do in the U.S.,” said Dr. Elizabeth Bonanno, behavioral health medical director for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Ohio. “The Prevention Action Alliance’s work to proactively address these concerns, giving schools tools and resources for early identification, is vital to turning these trends around.”


The Prevention & Wellness Academy of Ohio is a three-year pilot program, providing school districts with a $9,000 stipend, training, and resources to implement a multi-tiered system of student-targeted prevention and wellness support that is culturally responsive, effective, and sustainable.

Four school districts (Elgin Local Schools, Springfield City School District, Pleasant Local School District, and Northeastern Local School District (NELSD)) were selected from a pool of applicants to participate in the Prevention and Wellness Academy of Ohio.


“As the Springfield City School District strengthens its focus on students’ social-emotional learning and MTSS processes, this partnership through the Prevention and Wellness Academy of Ohio will allow our District to fortify our knowledge base by asking questions about what is working in other Districts, unifying our District message and utilizing this platform as an invaluable resource to brainstorm and troubleshoot ideas as we plan out additional SEL resources in our classrooms and buildings.” – Dr. Martin Johnson, Coordinator of Psychological and Mental Health Services for the Springfield City School District.


“Northeastern Local School District is excited to be a part of the test pilot group for the Prevention Action Alliance’s Prevention and Wellness Academy of Ohio,” said NELSD Director of Pupil Services Steve Linson. “This is an innovative step towards a better future. By prioritizing social-emotional learning (SEL), mental health, and wellness, the district aims to create a baseline of needs and provide interventions to empower students and staff. Together, we will identify and provide resources to support a stronger, healthier community.”


Each district has assembled a team to lead the academy for their school system. Over the last five months, these teams have gathered benchmark data to identify their current strengths and opportunities for prevention and wellness supports – laying out tools and processes to begin implementing their multi-tiered support systems in the Fall of 2023.


“Schools across Ohio are experiencing an increase in mental health disorders regardless of location and socioeconomic status. So, I am excited to see these school districts taking the initiative to implement additional prevention and wellness support for their students. A growing body of research shows these types of programs contribute to positive outcomes in many realms of students’ lives, including academic achievement, career readiness, and reduction in risky behaviors such as substance misuse.” – Fran Gerbig, Executive Director, Prevention Action Alliance.


Contact: Leah Blewitt
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
Phone: 614.540.9985
Cell: 614.570.3964

About The Prevention & Wellness Academy of Ohio
The Prevention & Wellness Academy of Ohio is a project of the K-12 School-Based Initiative at Prevention Action Alliance (PAA), in partnership with Education Development Center (EDC) and Miami University’s School-Based Center of Excellence (SBCOE) for Prevention and Early Intervention. It is generously funded by the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation.

About Prevention Action Alliance
Prevention Action Alliance is a non-profit organization leading healthy communities in the prevention of substance misuse and promotion of mental health wellness. Programs and initiatives include Campus Cents, The G.A.P. Network, Know! Prevention Tips, the Ohio College Initiative to Enhance Student Wellness, the Ohio Youth-Led Prevention Network, SMART Bet, and the Statewide Prevention Coalition Association. For more information on Prevention Action Alliance, please visit