Healey-Driscoll Administration Announces $13 Million Investment to Expand BRYT Student Mental Health Program

Government and Politics

May 21, 2024

From: Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey

Funds will support students struggling with their mental health through the establishment of bridge programs in economically challenged and under-resourced communities.

WELLESLEY - On May 21, 2024 the Healey-Driscoll Administration announced an unprecedented $13 million investment in the Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition (BRYT) program, an in-school program supporting students who have fallen behind academically due to challenges with their mental health. This investment, part of the Healey-Driscoll Administration’s ongoing commitment to protecting youth mental health, will fund the creation of BRYT programs at more than 30 high-need schools across Massachusetts. This is the first time the state has provided funding to establish BRYT in schools; the program has historically has only been available to districts with the economic resources to get it off the ground. 

Governor Maura Healey announced the investment this morning at Wellesley High School following a conversation with BRYT students, graduates, families. Wellesley High School’s BRYT program, named Wellesley Bridge, was one of the first programs established in Massachusetts more than 18 years ago. 

“Far too many young people in Massachusetts have been affected by a growing mental health crisis that was only amplified by the pandemic,” said Governor Healey. “Every student should have the support needed to balance their mental health and education. Expanding BRYT is a critical step that is bringing us closer to that goal.” 

“For the first time ever, we’re providing seed funding for BRYT programs – because we know that critical mental health supports like these shouldn’t only be a reality for students in schools with the resources to establish the programming themselves.” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “We want every student in Massachusetts to thrive scholastically and emotionally. Expanding BRYT brings us one step closer to that goal.” 

The $13 million state investment will provide funding to establish BRYT programs at schools that otherwise wouldn’t have the resources to implement it, accelerating the statewide adoption of the program. Administered by the Department of Mental Health (DMH), today’s funding includes $3 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and $10 million from the Massachusetts Behavioral Health Trust Fund. 

Pioneered in Massachusetts by the Brookline Center for Community Mental Health, the program has been recognized nationally as a successful and innovative model for student mental health support and is now being implemented in schools across the country. 

In the wake of COVID-19, youth mental health has been declared a public health crisis and chronic absenteeism remains a major issue. Programming through BRYT supports students as they balance their mental health needs and academic work, equipping them with the tools they need to return to school, resume a normal course schedule, succeed academically, and reintegrate socially. Nationwide, roughly 50 percent of students with serious mental health challenges drop out of high school. 95 percent of BRYT students graduate on-time and with their peers.  

“Across Massachusetts and the nation, young people are struggling. They’re expected to juggle academics, extracurriculars, social lives, and family needs – often in the harsh and unrelenting light of social media – while also maintaining their mental health,” said?Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh.?“Teens frequently have to navigate multiple systems to address their health needs.?Our kids shouldn’t have to ‘case manage’ themselves – that’s why BRYT is so valuable. BRYT helps students navigate and balance academic requirements and mental health treatment, while also providing the space to take a step back when needed. Expanding this program means that more students than ever before will be able to access the mental health support they need, in their home and at school.?We’re thrilled to help make that a reality.”? 

“As an integral part of our comprehensive mental health system in schools, BRYT has made a profound difference for students, families, and entire school communities. Having witnessed the positive outcomes firsthand, I am confident that the continued growth of BRYT will have a lasting and positive impact on our educational landscape,” said Education Secretary Patrick Tutwiler.  

“My sophomore year of high school, I was struggling to just get through each day. That changed when I entered the Bridge program,” said?Annie McCauley, recent graduate of Wellesley Bridge (BRYT). “The team held so many of my worries, which allowed me to begin to tackle school one step at a time. They assured me and my family, again and again, that there was a path to graduation. Even on my hardest days, I knew I would find comfort in the Bridge room.?I am forever grateful that Bridge was able to help me learn how to be a student and take care of myself, and I am so excited that with this generous grant so many more students will have access to this critical support.” 

The Brookline Center will administer this grant funding to schools identified as meeting the under resourced, high-need criteria. Already, eight schools have been identified and are working to launch their inaugural BRYT program. These schools include Boston’s John D. O’Bryant School, Brockton High School, Everett High School, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, Malden High School, Springfield’s High School of Commerce, Springfield Legacy Academy, and Taunton High School. Each school is receiving $259,000 over 20 months to create and staff dedicated school-based bridge programs. An additional 25 schools will also be identified for BRYT programs in the coming months. 

“Many young people in the Commonwealth struggle to access mental health care and to reconnect to their communities while receiving that care. Investing in the BRYT program demonstrates our commitment to advancing mental health equity and ensuring that Massachusetts youth have access to the crucial wraparound supports that they need,” said Commissioner of Mental Health Brooke Doyle. 

“This funding will allow us to support schools that have wanted to implement BRYT for years, but until now have lacked the resources to get things started. We are deeply grateful to our partners in the State Legislature and Administration for such an incredible investment,” said Executive Director of BRYT Paul Hyry-Dermith. “BRYT creates a space for students to access the academic, clinical, and social support they need to re-integrate into school and get back on track. More than 90 percent of students who participate in BRYT continue on to graduate.” 

“This is a pivotal commitment to student mental health across Massachusetts,” said Chief Executive Officer of The Brookline Center Ian Lang. “For nearly 20 years, the BRYT program has successfully helped thousands of students transition back to full participation in school following a mental health disruption to their education.”  

“We know that attending to the physical and mental health of our students is essential to their academic success in school,” said Superintendent of Wellesley Public Schools Dr. David Lussier. “The Bridge program at Wellesley High School plays a vital role in supporting students who have missed school due to emotional or medical needs and are struggling to reintegrate.  We are thrilled to learn that the Governor’s announcement today will help support the expansion of programs like ours to other communities across the state.”    

“We’re so honored to have Governor Healey, Secretary Walsh and Commissioner Doyle here today,” said Meghan Jop, Executive Director, Town of Wellesley. “Over the past ten years, the Town of Wellesley has deliberately increased its investment in mental health initiatives like the Bridge program to help improve our community. We see the positive results of this decision every day in individuals of all ages. The Governor’s visit underscores the ongoing importance of our continued commitment, and these funds from the Healey-Driscoll Administration will give many other communities the tools to make this same investment.” 

The BRYT program provides integrated supports that include academic case management, direct clinical care, family support, and broad care coordination in a dedicated classroom space (the BRYT room) that serves as a safe home base while these students transition back to full participation in academics and school life. A Clinical Coordinator leads the direct work of clinical support, care coordination, and family engagement while and an Academic Coordinator works with the student and their teachers to facilitate academic catch-up as well as a return to a full schedule of classes.  

Fewer than 20% of BRYT participants experience re-hospitalization after an initial hospital stay. Students in BRYT also report a 50% reduction in substance use disorders and 50% drop in self-harming behaviors.