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Building Community Capacity Among Multi-Care, Tacoma Public Schools, and University of Washington to Support Underserved Youth Well-Being

Sunny Cheng, RN, PhD

Assistant Professor,

Nursing & Healthcare Leadership,

UW Tacoma


Washington State ranks 43 out of 51 in the US for access to mental health services. For example, over 42% of Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) students face service barriers due to being economically disadvantaged. Accordingly, the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has deemed building staffing capacity to support student well-being a key priority in 2021-23. Studies demonstrate that consultations that are transferable from behavioral health care experts to school staff are an efficient, scalable, cost-effective and sustained model. However, this model has not been adopted in TPS.



Our proposed capacity building project aims to strengthen an established partnership between UW Tacoma, TPS and MultiCare Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit and conduct a needs assessment that will inform the development and implementation of a transferrable consultation program that supports students’ mental well-being. The project goal aligns with two pillars of population health—human health and social and economic equity—by establishing a collaborative framework with under-served public schools and developing an evidence-based training program to improve youth mental health.

The Interconnected Systems Framework and the Theory of Change will be used to inform project conceptualization, development and implementation. Community stakeholders will be selected through purposive sampling to participate in in-depth needs assessment interviews. Researchers will employ content analysis techniques to identify, analyze, and synthesize themes. The results will position our team for future proof-of-concept study, which will examine the effects of case consultation sessions delivered by child and adolescent psychiatrists on school counselors’ self-efficacy and student well-being.

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