How to get help: A resource guide to city and school-based services

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

School-based behavioral health programs

A list of providers by school


Student Assistance Program

The Student Assistance Program (SAP) is designed to identify and assist students who are having school-related problems resulting from drug or alcohol abuse or other mental health problems. Referral can be triggered by the school or the family.

Students who are deemed in need of help are referred to the appropriate school-based and/or community services. A SAP evaluator will come to the school with written parental permission and meet with the parents and student. The evaluator will then help parents obtain any recommended services.

School Therapeutic Services

School Therapeutic Services (STS) is an intensive, short-term service offered in selected schools in the Philadelphia School District. This program was developed to support students whose emotional and behavioral issues create barriers to their school success. A team of experienced mental health professionals from a provider agency works closely with school staff and families.

If your child’s school does not have STS, you may request a transfer to one that does.

Behavioral Health Rehabilitative Services, formerly “Wraparound”

Essentially provides the same services as STS in schools that do not have that program. Both programs seek to actively involve the family in dealing with students’ issues.

Regular contact with providers

Community Behavioral Health requires weekly contact between providers and families. If this is not happening, contact your school counselor or CBH member services.

If a child changes schools or starts a new school

If he or she is receiving behavioral health services, notify the provider in the school they are leaving and speak to the counselor in the receiving school. You must initiate the change; it is not automatic.

“It’s important that whatever services your child is receiving, you communicate that to the new school,” says Bridget Taylor-Brown, the School District’s director of prevention and intervention.

Parental or guardian consent

Unless drugs or alcohol are an issue, a parent/guardian must consent to any behavioral health assessment or treatment of your child, in school or out of school, up until age 14. At 14 or over they can give consent, although a provider may also require your consent for an older child. A student of any age may obtain treatment for drug or alcohol abuse without parental notification or consent.

High schools with services

Most behavioral health services in the School District are geared to grades K-8. But three high schools have outpatient clinics serving their own students: Frankford, Martin Luther King, and South Philadelphia.

What the city offers

For questions about the city’s outpatient and inpatient behavioral health services:

Call Community Behavioral Health Member Services 1-888-545-2600.

For a mental health emergency:

Call the acute services crisis number of Community Behavioral Health 215-685-6440.

A note on waiting times:

If your child has Medical Assistance, behavioral health providers must see the child within seven days. If the child needs urgent care, the provider must see him/her within 24 hours.

If you are having a problem getting an appointment:

Call member services 1-888-545-2600.

Call if your wait time exceeds seven days, or if the provider says they won’t see a child under the age of 4. “We have some providers who will see a kid as young as 2 or 3,” says Andrew Devos, deputy chief operating officer at Community Behavioral Health.

If you see a clear case of child abuse or neglect:

Call the Department of Human Services child line 215-683-6100.

Insurance issues

Information about Medical Assistance

Call Community Behavioral Health Member Services 1-888-545-2600.

CHIP – Children’s Health Insurance Program

CHIP is Pennsylvania’s health insurance program for uninsured children and teens. There may be fees and co-pays based on income. In Philadelphia, CHIP is provided through four different insurance companies:

Aetna 1-800-755-2422

United HealthCare 1-800-414-9025

Kidz Partners 1-877-710-8222

Keystone Health Plan East 1-800-688-1911

If you have private insurance through your employer, call the member services number on the back of your insurance card.

Other questions about health insurance or help in applying

Public Citizens for Children and Youth hotline 215-563-5848 x17

Advocating for your child

Talk with other parents who may have similar issues

Parents Involved Network (PIN), a parent support group in Philadelphia 267-507-3860.

Get help in making the system work for you

Public Citizens for Children and Youth hotline 215-563-5848 x17

To learn more

General information on the city’s child behavioral health system

Public Citizens for Children and Youth is an excellent source. A series of guides and research reports is available on their website.

Their 2012 guide to services in Philadelphia is available.

For more on the city’s behavioral health resources.

General information about trauma and trauma-informed care

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

ChildTrauma Academy

General questions about mental health

American Psychiatric Association Answer Center 1-888-357-7924 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. EST

Child Mental Health Q&A from National Institutes of Mental Health

About the issue of stigma

Scattergood Foundation

Does your pediatrician know about childhood trauma?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a series of guides for diagnosing and dealing with child trauma