School children wearing backpacks stand outside a bus

A Collaborative Approach to Understanding and Improving School-Based Mental Health Services


Up to 20% of youth in the United States experience a mental, emotional or behavioral health condition every year. Yet many of those children do not receive mental health services due to limited service providers, stigma, and other barriers to access. Placing trained mental health professionals in schools eliminates many of the barriers that prevent children from receiving the support they need to learn, grow and succeed.

The challenge: Limited information about school-based mental health services

A decade ago, Minnesota began seeing rapid growth in the number of agencies offering school-based mental health services. While there were many providers, there was not a way to look across these services to know how many children were being served and in what ways. Agencies had only their own data to inform future services. Evaluation results were limited because each agency was serving relatively few children.

In 2008, several Minnesota school-based mental health providers discussed how they could work together to find out what services work and make reporting to funders easier. Wilder Research and several partners began exploring how a shared resource could systematically and consistently report their agency’s mental health data to funders and look at data across providers. Access to aggregate data would give service providers a greater ability to learn what’s working and advocate for service improvements and support.

Working with providers to address a community need

With funding from Hennepin County, Wilder Research and its partners created the Minnesota Kids Database to address this need. This web-based database allows agencies to collect a common set of data related to clinical services provided in schools.

Today, more than 300 clinicians in over 350 schools are serving approximately 5,000 students, who are part of the Minnesota Kids Database. Wilder Research acts as project manager for the Minnesota Kids Database, providing training to users, managing user agreements and fees, and preparing reports.

Participating agencies use the database to:

  • Track who they serve, what services they provide, and the outcomes of those services.
  • Run required reports for state and county program funders. More than 100 reports are available for reporting to county and state government, demographic summaries, and more.
  • Access aggregate data across sites to use for local information and advocate for service expansion.

The database not only offers a data picture of each agency’s work, but also illuminates a broader understanding across participating agencies. Using the Minnesota Kids Database, participating providers can more easily show the services they provide, demonstrate the bene­fits of school-based mental health services, identify strategies for enhancing programming, and continue to demonstrate the need for reaching children in schools. 

Learn more about the Minnesota Kids Database



Minnesota Kids Database has really streamlined county reporting. The fact that MKD is really easy to use frees up time in other areas so the therapists can focus on providing quality therapy to the students we serve.

Jessica Fesler, People Incorporated Mental Health Services