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Summit County schools continuing student mental health survey with or without state funds

LA Johnson
The Student Health and Risk Prevention, or SHARP, survey measures substance use, anti-social behavior, and risk factors that predict adolescence problem behavior.

While the State Board of Education waits for school district input, Summit County schools are moving forward with the biannual student mental health survey next year.

Every other year since 2003, Utah middle and high school students have been given the Student Health and Risk Prevention, or SHARP survey. The opt-in survey measures substance use, anti-social behavior, and risk factors that predict problem behavior.

In June, the Utah State Board of Education withdrew support for the survey over concerns about its content and purpose. However, on October 6 the board voted to re-evaluate that decision and form a subcommittee to begin surveying school districts’ interests.

Summit County isn’t waiting for those results. Health Department Director Phil Bondurant said they’re moving forward with the SHARP survey in the county’s three school districts with or without state funding. He said it’s just too valuable to scrap.

“That information is extremely important. It helps us as we strategize around prevention strategies across all risks for our youth,” said Bondurant. “And so our three school districts have committed to providing that survey for those that opt in.”

This means parents decide whether their children take it. It’s the only survey in the state that collects detailed risk and protective factor data that’s used to then identify community problems and needs.

“We're going to continue to push and help parents understand the value in this assessment and hopefully, give them enough information that they can make the right decision and allow their children to take that assessment,” said Bondurant.”

Mary Christa Smith is the executive director for Communities that Care Summit County. She said she is extremely grateful Summit County schools are continuing the survey.

“We have a mental health crisis with our youth and we absolutely need to know how to help them and we need data to determine that and this is the best piece of data that we have.”

Smith said SHARP survey information is a key piece of data they use in all of their prevention work.

“We look at rates of youth substance use. We look at mental health indicators, their sense of safety in school,” said Smith. “This helps us work really directly with those administrators and staff in the district to ensure that kids feel safe everywhere in school and everywhere in our community.”

The SHARP survey is expected to be administered in Summit County classrooms around February or March. Parents will be notified ahead of time.

A link to the most recent survey results for Summit County can be found here.