CHADS School Outreach

What if there was a network of resources readily available to every family and every child battling mental illness?

Photo of Katie Lamonica Johnson
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

In April of 2004, Chad McCord, a high-school senior, lost his battle to depression and died by suicide. Chad’s parents, Marian and Larry McCord, were determined to create an organization focused on saving the lives of our youth by creating a network of resources readily available to every family battling mental illness. In January 2005, CHADS Coalition for Mental Health was founded by the McCords. CHADS is an acronym for “Communities Healing Adolescent Depression and Suicide.”


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Missouri

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

St. Louis

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Missouri

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

St. Louis Metro Area St. Louis City (MO) Franklin County (MO) Jersey County (IL) Jefferson County (MO) Madison County (IL) Lincoln County (MO) Monroe County (IL) St. Charles County (MO) St. Clair County (IL) St. Louis City (MO) St. Louis County (MO) Warren County (MO)

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The complex, interrelated problems of youth mental illness, suicide, and bullying persist for too many reasons to fully detail here, and can vary for each individual. Aspects of these problems that can be broadly addressed by CHADS include stigma, poor access to care, and lack of support for youth involved in bullying. CHADS “safety net” program addresses these issues comprehensively to leverage change.

CHADS School Outreach offers a menu of wraparound services: Signs of Suicide (SOS), focused on mental health literacy education and suicide prevention, Family Support to stabilize suicidal youth through short term counseling and support groups; the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) including mentoring; and PAX Good Behavior Game (GBG), a classroom management method that has positive mental health outcomes into adulthood. This comprehensive approach helps create a healthier, safer school environment conducive to greater learning, improved family relationships, and parents and youth educated about mental health issues.

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Children who are differently abled
  • LGBTQ or non-binary individuals
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Education
  • Mental Health

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Established (the solution has passed the previous stages, and has demonstrated success)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

“Grace” begins school in a district using School Outreach K-12. Teachers through the 2nd grade use the GBG, resulting in more active time learning, better self-regulation and cooperation. 3rd-12th, the school uses the OBPP, resulting in “anti-bullying” school culture where she feels safe. Grace would also receive SOS. Later, when Grace’s friend says he wants to die, she knows from SOS to use the ACT technique: ACKNOWLEDGE signs of suicide, respond with CARE, and TELL a trusted adult. Grace has anxiety about leaving for college, so she goes to CHADS Family Support for brief counseling. This hypothetical child shows how School Outreach helps youth cultivate wellbeing by creating a mental health "safety net" of services.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In 2015, CHADS reached 37,467 people through school outreach and assisted 246 families. 2931 self-reported needing help due to depression or suicidal thoughts. Schools that have implemented the OBPP for at least one semester report an average 39.6% reduction in bullying. CHADS projects about 20% growth every year. Staff and student comments: “Bullying has definitely decreased when teachers utilize the process. IT WORKS! Parents are very supportive of the program.” “Out of all the presentations that are given in our health curriculum. I believe this one gives our students knowledge that can make an immediate and profound impact on their own life and the lives of others.” “Suicide is not an openly discussed topic in African American culture; however it is a very real situation.” “Every time CHADS comes to my school I learn something new, I love the presentations.”

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $500k - $1m

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

CHADS has a long term fundraising plan with innovative and traditional techniques to enable our programs to be sustainable in perpetuity. The plan includes gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations. CHADS recently established an endowment fund with a donation from Swimming to Ferguson.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

A few other agencies in the area (Kids Under Twenty One, Character Plus, Provident) offer suicide prevention or bullying programs. CHADS is better able to serve youth due to our focus on evidence-based programming, as opposed to other local suicide prevention and bullying prevention. CHADS is the only agency in the St. Louis metro area to offer comprehensive, evidence based suicide prevention, bullying prevention, and counseling programming.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The most exciting trends to us are “whole-person” focused health and wellness, such as Anthropedia’s Wellness Coaching, which includes complementary methods like nutrition, positive psychology, physical exercise, and stress reduction techniques. Another promising shift is on listening to the lived experiences of people with mental illness when developing treatments. While all these ideas have been around for many years, they have just recently become more well-known and widely implemented.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

Evaluation results

5 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 20%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 80%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 0%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 0%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 20%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 40%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 0%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 40%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 0%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 20%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 20%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 60%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 0%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 0%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 25%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 25%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 50%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 0%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 0%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 100%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 33.3%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 100%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 0%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Fred Cardenas

What a great array of approaches and strategies to help students at most critical and vulnerable times.  Would also be interested in hearing more detail about how parents are supported - specific straregies or curriculum besides the mental health first aid- e.g. frequency and participation in support groups, etc.  Also wonder how you are connecting to community mental health providers knowing there is usually a shortage of those providers in most communities. Identifying the issues is wonderful and getting the student and family involved but what happens if there is  a shortage of mental health providers and resources?  Thank You.

Photo of Katie Lamonica Johnson

Thanks for your feedback! Since lack of resources and trouble connecting to effective help can be a problem, a big part of the School Outreach model is connecting youth to care. CHADS does this either through our own Family Support clinicians or through referrals. Family Support's core competency is stabilizing suicidal youth. CHADS often takes referrals from other agencies or physicians to help stabilize youth in crisis, brings stabilization then refers back to that agency or a new agency, depending. Other times we will be working with youth while they are on the waiting list with a psychiatrist, and after if needed. When we make referrals, we make a follow up calls to ensure the referral worked out, and if it didn't we try again!  In addition, CHADS publishes listings of valuable community resources and referrals on our website’s awareness pages and Family Resource Center document. Categories that are included in the document are: hotlines, help lines and mental health centers; hospitals and residential treatment centers; support groups; counseling programs and organizations; child and adolescent psychiatrists; legal/financial resources; and educational resources. These resources can be viewed at
Sorry if I was unclear in the last reply, the support groups are for youth, not parents. The education and support we provide for parents is part of Family Support, so it is a short-term solution focused model. The focus is mostly on the youth. There are are usually about five sessions, with more or fewer possible depending on the need. It is also specifically Youth Mental Health First Aid that we offer, focusing on how mental illness manifests in youth and how parents, teachers, and other adult "gatekeepers" can help. Thanks again!

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