A mental-health program that officials say is a success in Dublin middle schools could be expanded to include the district's three high schools by the 2010-11 school year.

A mental-health program that officials say is a success in Dublin middle schools could be expanded to include the district's three high schools by the 2010-11 school year.

Superintendent David Axner said after the school board meeting June 24 that a review of the "Red Flags" program would be conducted during the next year.

"The director of secondary education will work with high school principals to see if this is doable," Axner said.

If officials think the depression awareness and intervention program can also work in the high schools, the superintendent said that a recommendation would be made next year to the school board to expand the program for the 2010-11 school year.

Both school and mental health officials at the board meeting praised the Red Flags program, which was included in the health curriculum of the four middle schools this past school year. The program cost about $20,000.

Red Flags is endorsed by the Ohio Department of Education and this past year included in-service training for school staff and administrators, a video-based curriculum for students called "Claire's Story: A Child's Perspective of Childhood Depression," and a seminar for parents, students and the community.

"The potential, the probability we saved a life this year may never be known," Axner said, adding that he thinks that probably happened.

Chris Nemeth, development director of the Dublin Counseling Center, a partner with the schools in the Red Flags program, told the board about one success story.

He said a girl with anxiety issues sought help and has gone through two months of therapy. The girl is responding to the treatment.

Because of the training during the past year, the middle school guidance counselors and health-education teachers are now prepared to carry out the program next school year, he said.

"We started to map out a program in the fall (last year). ... It was laid out to perfection," he said.

Grizzell Middle School principal Thom Jones also hailed Red Flags.

"It is something that cannot be underestimated related to mental illness," Jones said. "It is something we can deal with and we can work through with the students."

Up to 1,000 eighth-graders will take part in the program next year, he said.

The Ohio chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness also helped with the program at Dublin in the past year.

Ohio Alliance executive director Jim Mauro thanked the school district for its commitment to improving the mental health of students. He read a letter dated June 8 from Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn L. Stratton, who for the past eight years has chaired the Supreme Court's Advisory Committee on Mental Illness and the Courts.

"Red Flags not only helps children, but it also educates their friends, their parents and their teachers and counselors to recognize the danger signs linked to depression and suicide," Mauro read from the letter, which was sent to school board President Gwen Callender.

"Learning how to appropriately recognize and address behavioral health issues in school can help to divert a young life from the maze of our juvenile justice system," the letter said.

Stratton also wrote that she hopes the district will implement the program in its high schools.

Callender, other board members and Axner received a framed commendation from the mental illness alliance for being the first district in the state to adopt the Red Flags program district-wide and for being committed to the well being of students and their families.

"It is a great program," Callender said. "I really appreciate what Red Flags has done in our schools."