/ April 13, 2021

Mental Health Services for High-Needs Schools: Getting it done

Sarah Miles previously served as the Mental Health Training Coordinator for 1,600 public schools across New York City. In this role, she created foundational mental health presentations and trainings for her sites and become known as a resource for staff, students and parents alike. When schools closed and students switched to digital learning for the first time in the City’s history, her office was inundated with more requests for help than they could have anticipated.

The needs varied. One family in Far Rockaway had a tech question about the iPad the Department of Education provided for their fifteen-year-old. Another family on the Lower East Side asked for support with self-care and stress management for their five-year-old. Committed to addressing these new needs, Sarah started to curate newsletters, webinars, and a wealth of other resources for parents, students, teachers, and mental health staff. She also helped school-based providers transition to tele-mental health services, providing critical care for students and families who were struggling with grief and loss.

Ms. Miles took extra care to make sure that everything she distributed was appropriate and relevant to the communities who were requesting help. Keeping in mind the City’s diverse population, Ms. Miles compiled resources for the LGBTQ+ community as well as resources specific to different ethnic groups and cultures, providing translated materials as much as she could.

“Sarah has a thoughtful, considerate, and respectful mind,” said Scott Bloom, Director of School Mental Health Services. “I often say Sarah, what do you have to offer? And Sarah just gets it done. She might be busy, but she’ll still say, ‘Oh, I can get that for you.’”

From Ms. Miles:
“I am drawn to working in children’s mental health because I see the need for reform and change in our systems and because I am passionate about being a positive connection and support for youth. My drive comes from the hope and possibility for change in individuals, communities, and systems – change is hard, but connection and relationships help me see where it’s possible.”

AT A GLANCE: Mental Health Services for High-Needs Schools

• Mental health services are on-site at 248 high-needs schools across the five boroughs
• Students have access to individual and group supportive counseling and psychiatric treatment
• Community partners also focus on building each school’s capacity to address mental health needs


• Students have participated in over 181,000 individual or group supportive counseling sessions since the program began in 2017
• Over 14,000 trainings have been provided to teachers, staff and families through this program