The Hawai'i State Department of Education (HIDOE) and Hazel Health (Hazel), the national leader in school-based telehealth, announced today a new partnership to expand access to mental health services for K-12 public school students. The statewide partnership, which is the first of its kind and serves over 170,000 students across 295 schools, offers the opportunity for students to access community-based mental health services at no cost to families. The program officially launched in May 2022 and HIDOE is investing roughly $3.83 million over three years to support the platform that provides services to students.
Through the partnership, Hawai'i public school students will be able to connect with diverse, multilingual, licensed Hazel therapists to receive an assessment and, where appropriate, short-term, evidence-based counseling via secure video visits. If long-term care is needed, Hazel's family resource managers work closely with parents, health plans, and community partners to help connect the student to local providers.
Students' therapy sessions can take place while in school (where available) or at home, shortening wait times to receive care and access to no-cost mental health support.
"Hazel was created to address the ongoing challenges that students, families, and school faculty face in their attempts to access timely, high-quality mental health care for their children," says Andrew Post, a lifelong educator and Chief Innovation Officer at Hazel. "Hazel will help to streamline the identification, treatment, and ongoing support for student's mental health concerns, paving a path to improved academic outcomes and social-emotional development."
The partnership supports HIDOE's broader effort to help students gain timely access to mental and behavioral health services. Provider shortages, long wait times, and a lack of insurance coverage for mental health services are known gaps to care. According to the 2022 Mental Health America report, 71% of Hawai'i's youth with at least one major depressive episode are not receiving treatment. While not unique to Hawai'i, this high need for mental health care is straining the system as it exists today. The Hawai'i Department of Health views access to telehealth as a solution to address these gaps.
By collaborating with Hazel, community-based health care groups, agencies, and other organizations, the HIDOE aims to bridge gaps in care for students and streamline the approach for families with limited time or resources.