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Case Study

Jefferson County Public Schools

September 9, 2019

Jefferson County Public Schools is the second-largest school district in Colorado, with more than 86,000 students in approximately 155 schools.

The Challenge

Jefferson County Public Schools (Jeffco Schools) has long taken a proactive approach to supporting students who struggle with substance use. But they found that traditional disciplinary interventions, including suspension, did little to address students’ underlying challenges — while limiting learning opportunities for students who may need them most. Jeffco Schools engaged RMC Health to build their capacity for data-driven decision-making, so they could implement effective interventions and help more students thrive.

Scope of Work

  • Capacity-building
    • Data analysis to identify trends and priority areas
    • Selection of evidence-based practices and programs
    • Creating restorative and alternative discipline systems
  • Implementation support
    • Integrating prevention efforts into school routines
    • Progress monitoring
    • Sustainability efforts

Our Approach

RMC Health provided professional learning and coaching focused on helping school nurses evaluate student health data, select effective intervention strategies, and implement those strategies in middle and high school settings. That work is elevated by Jeffco Schools’ and RMC Health’s shared participation in a community-wide coalition focused on substance use education, prevention, and intervention that brings the strength of community partners in support of this incredibly important work. Additionally, RMC Health worked closely with student engagement and health services leadership at the district level to ensure an approach aligned with district priorities and vision.

Helping School Nurses Elevate Their Practice

Like many school districts around the country, Jefferson County Public Schools was concerned about substance use in its middle and high schools, and decided to take an innovative approach to supporting students. Instead of strictly punitive disciplinary practices — which limit learning opportunities for young people who may need them most — Jeffco Schools designed alternative pathways for students who violated the district’s substance use policies. Those alternative pathways were piloted by school nurses in three district high schools.

Jeffco Schools and RMC Health engaged in a five-year partnership to build the capacity of school nurses hired to provide drug intervention services, in addition to their health services responsibilities. Supported by substance use prevention funds from Colorado’s Office of Behavioral Health and the School Professional Grant from the Colorado Department of Education, JeffCo sought to maximize and leverage the opportunity and funding. The capacity-building work centered on using data as a planning tool. RMC Health helped the nurses gain new knowledge and skills that empowered them to evaluate Healthy Kids Colorado Survey data. From there, they collaborated to select a range of prevention and intervention strategies that would be responsive to students’ specific challenges.

In addition, RMC Health coached the nurses on how to implement those new strategies, anticipate implementation barriers, and overcome those challenges. Due to Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, the role RMC Health played in selecting interventions and guiding their initial implementation was especially impactful as a wide array of new programs became available.

“RMC Health was the ultimate sense-maker in this new reality. They looked at all of the research, all of the data, and knew what questions to ask and what skills we needed to develop.”
— Micah Munro, Jefferson County Public Schools

The core team of three school nurses grew their knowledge, skills and confidence. In the final year of their partnership with RMC Health, Jeffco Schools’ Board of Directors approved funding to expand the school nurse role to every high school in the district, ensuring the sustainability of these efforts.

“The team at RMC Health is extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and valuable. We now have school nurses in every one of our 20 high schools in the district because of the model we developed, and RMC Health is a huge part of that.”
— Micah Munro, Jefferson County Public Schools

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