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Keywords:

  • youth with mental or emotional disabilities;
  • high school dropouts;
  • severe emotional disturbances;
  • high school graduation rates;
  • systems of care;
  • Individualized Education Plan;
  • Mecklenburg County, NC;
  • MeckCARES

In North Carolina, only 69% of high school students graduate in 4 years; however, recent data suggest that only 42% of students with mental and emotional disabilities graduate. MeckCARES, a system of care (SOC) in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, is designed to serve youth with severe emotional disturbances and their families. The SOC philosophy is a prominent family-focused approach intended to provide comprehensive, coordinated networks of services, tailored to the needs of the child and family, while emphasizing the strengthening of natural community supports. In addition to other mental health objectives, a particular goal of MeckCARES is to address specific school-based needs of system-identified youth to improve educational outcomes and reduce the risk of dropping out. This study sought to assess empirically the impact that enrollment in MeckCARES has on graduation precursors; namely, grades, suspensions, and absences. This study found that, on average, enrollment in MeckCARES is not associated with positive changes in educational variables. Implications of these findings are discussed, as are future directions. For example, additional research is needed with more sensitive measurement and data collection procedures (i.e., access to graduation rates and Medicaid information) to adequately assess the impact of enrollment in MeckCARES on educational outcomes.