Innovative Partnerships Increase Students’ Access to Mental Health Support at CPS

As part of Chelsea Public Schools’ (CPS) continued focus on supporting student mental health and well-being, CPS has become the first school district in Massachusetts to partner with both Alongside, an application that combines the power of artificial intelligence (AI) with clinician-developed chat scripts and modules to provide students with Tier 1 supports during school time, and Cartwheel Care, a virtual therapy, psychiatry, and wraparound support platform focused on Tier 2 and Tier 3 needs.

Alongside gives students access to tools to further their social-emotional learning (SEL) such as journaling, activities to support improved wellness (such as breathing exercises), and an AI-powered chatbot that empowers users to go through basic exercises that promote resilience, positive social and emotional development, self-monitoring, and goal setting. Alongside is accessible to all middle school and high school students during the school day as an application on their Chromebooks. The chat feature supports multilingual students by translating into 36 different languages.

At CPS, the implementation of Alongside began in December at all of its secondary schools. After one month at the Morris H. Seigal Clark Avenue Middle School, 75 percent of students have used Alongside to date and 82 percent have identified that they have found it helpful. Across the district, Alongside has logged nearly 3,000 total “activities’’ that the students have completed. These include chat sessions, goal setting, writing journal entries and more.

Introducing Alongside comes after CPS was also on the forefront of another important partnership. Two years ago, CPS was the first district in the state to partner with Cartwheel Care, a mental health provider that provides telehealth services to secondary students at CPS. Since launching the program in fall 2022, more than 200 Chelsea students have been referred to receive mental health services with Cartwheel. Cartwheel also provides Chelsea families with tools and strategies to support their children’s mental health, including parent coaching sessions and live webinars on mental health topics.

Superintendent Dr. Almi G. Abeyta has continuously invested in mental health supports, “By integrating mental health supports into our schools, we acknowledge that fostering a nurturing environment for emotional well-being is as essential to education as high-quality instruction. In recognizing the interconnectedness of mental and academic growth, we are paving the way for a future where every student has the tools to succeed not only in the classroom but in life.”

Equity, Diversity, & Excellence Officer Dr. Aaron T. Jennings added, “Establishing partnerships with providers like Alongside and Cartwheel Care is a direct result of listening to our students and school communities share the need for more access to mental health support. They meet the needs of our students, providing access to their services at different times throughout the day and via multiple modalities such as their phones or computers. We are happy to have joined forces with these innovative providers to ensure our students benefit from resources that will help their social-emotional development and well-being.”

In addition to investments in partnerships that leverage modern innovation and technology, CPS has continued to increase the amount of student support staff employed at its schools. Over the last four years, CPS has increased the amount of social workers and school counselors across the District. Entering this school year, Chelsea also added mediation specialists to support this work.

Chelsea Public Schools takes pride in providing students with access to platforms such as Alongside and any other services that foster positive development of student mental health and well-being.  By knowing students by name, strength, and story, CPS is able to best evaluate and secure new opportunities that will help Chelsea students.

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