Grounded in research, we advised local and national leaders on addressing the emerging needs of families from COVID-19 and beyond.


Bringing Behavioral Health Supports to Schools

PolicyLab researchers have partnered with local schools for many years across our research portfolios. While informing COVID-19 safety and mitigation efforts during the pandemic, we developed strong relationships with education leaders nationwide. Now, as schools emerge from the immediate health and safety concerns of COVID-19, the broader impacts of the pandemic on youth have become clearer, including the behavioral health crisis we currently face.

As local, state, and federal leaders look to respond to this challenge, PolicyLab researchers continue to create and evaluate school-based behavioral health interventions and explore how to best deliver these programs within schools and alongside educators, meeting youth where they are. To inform these efforts, our experts authored a white paper describing innovative strategies implemented by states and municipalities in support of comprehensive behavioral health services in schools. The resource explores how communities are addressing some of the barriers associated with implementing, funding and sustaining these services.

Alongside partners in CHOP’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Office of Government Affairs, we collaborated to ensure this type of research and information reached key partners to collectively address the youth mental health crisis.

Teen Girls Laughing and Walking Together

With behavioral health concerns at higher rates than we’ve ever seen among children and teens, faculty and staff from PolicyLab’s Behavioral Health Portfolio came together to identify policies and models from across the U.S. that support school-based behavioral health services so we can work together with leaders to ensure policies implemented in schools have the greatest positive impact on youth mental health.

Headshot of Jami Young, PhD

Jami Young, PhD

Behavioral Health Portfolio Faculty Lead

Engaging With Policymakers

PolicyLab works closely with decision-makers to provide research expertise and inform policy efforts on a range of issues impacting families. For example:

  • We engaged with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services on the state’s plan to extend Medicaid in the postpartum period.
  • After publishing a policy brief with recommendations on leveraging the pediatric setting to improve access to care for postpartum depression, we engaged with state Medicaid leadership on the necessary payment reform to support this aim.
  • Following publication of PolicyLab opinion pieces on the Child Tax Credit, the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity invited Dr. George Dalembert to participate in a virtual roundtable on this benefit’s impact on families.
  • Philadelphia City Council invited Drs. Rhonda Boyd and Aditi Vasan to testify at a Special Committee on Gun Violence hearing regarding the intersection of the youth mental health crisis and gun violence. As a result of this session, City Council passed a resolution calling for additional hearings on the topic.
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Making Actionable Recommendations

The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of addressing social needs for families that were exacerbated during the pandemic. After PolicyLab published a brief on ensuring screening for unmet social needs in the pediatric setting is both family-centered and effective, we convened more than 30 experts from across the U.S. to discuss state policy levers on this topic and issued concrete recommendations in follow up. Additionally, PolicyLab co-hosted a virtual conversation with Thriving PA during which health care providers and policy and research experts discussed optimizing family health through WIC modernization, generating new ideas and connecting attendees who could collaborate to take action.

PolicyLab experts also weighed in to provide research expertise on several critical issues persisting beyond the pandemic, including efforts to more clearly define “public charge” in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s final rule and to address unmet mental health needs, access to coverage and care in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the role of housing in health, to name a few.

State Policy Considerations for Addressing Unmet Social Needs in the Pediatric Setting

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Optimizing Family Health Through WIC Modernization

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Department of Homeland Security Request for Comment: Proposed Rule on Public Charge Ground of Inadmissibility

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U.S. Senate Committee on Finance’s Request for Information: Policy Proposals to Address Unmet Mental Health Needs

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Providing Essential Guidance

As the pandemic continued and evolved, PolicyLab provided updated guidance and support to local officials and school leaders. Tracking and reviewing emerging evidence on COVID-19 in children—and monitoring our COVID-Lab modeling data for details on local community transmission—we provided resources and insights to school districts throughout the country as they made critical decisions regarding school safety measures.

We also recognized that throughout the pandemic, guidance for mitigating COVID-19 risk in children prioritized those in K–12 educational settings. Alongside clinical leadership at CHOP, we developed guidance in January for early care and education settings and families of children under 5 years old to complement recommendations for K–12 settings and ensure they had the guidance needed to anticipate the removal of masks in communities and re-circulation of other respiratory viruses.

Guidance for In-person Education in K-12 Educational Settings

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Guidance on Managing COVID-19 and Other Seasonal Viruses for Early Care and Education Settings and Families of Children Under 5 Years Old

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[PolicyLab’s] Project: ACE-IT allowed our district to test students and staff as a way of mitigating COVID. This was very beneficial in keeping our district safe and open. ACE-IT staff were extremely helpful, providing training, weekly follow-up, access to tests and ongoing support. We would not have been this successful through COVID without this program. They've done a wonderful job facilitating it.

Amy Bell

Penn Delco School District Supervisor of Special Education