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    February 22, 2023

    Overcome Obstacles to Funding Student Mental Health and Safety Programs

    Schools are struggling to cope with the shocking rise in mental and behavioral health problems among K-12 students, including increased rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, and behavioral issues. Educators want the resources to support student mental wellness, especially knowing the links between mental health and absenteeism, substance abuse, violence, graduation rates, and consequences.

    An obvious follow-up question is, how effectively are we dealing with the crisis? The answer is there’s a big gap between needs and results. The NCES study also showed that 88 percent of public schools did not strongly agree that they could effectively provide mental health services to all students in need. We don’t have to look far to understand this perception. For example, about half of public schools lack a full-time counselor, and only one-third (34%) of schools provide outreach services, a best practice that includes mental health screenings for all students.

    Three main reasons given for these problems included insufficient school-based mental health professionals, inadequate access to licensed mental health professionals, and funding. Let's zero in on funding since it is necessary to address the other two items.

    Funding is Available, If You Can Access It

    There are many funding sources for which you may be eligible. In Oct 2022, the Federal government announced it would release $280 million to support mental health efforts in the nation’s public schools. States also have funds available through specific state appropriations, school funding models, earmarked tax revenue, and several federal sources. Private foundations such as the National PTA also a wide variety of grants.

    Some of the grants available to schools for student mental health programs include:

    Title IA: Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Educational Agencies

    Federal Title IA grants are awarded to State Educational Agencies (SEAs) to provide financial assistance to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) and schools with a high proportion of children in disadvantaged areas. These funds go toward non-instructional support to build student mental health.

    Program Examples: Additional school counselors, behavioral supports, and SEL (Social-Emotional Learning) methods that improve school climate, increase attendance, and improve physical and mental health.

    Title IIA: Growing Teacher Development and Professional Learning

    Federal Title IIA funds provide supplemental resources to improve student academic achievement, especially in disadvantaged areas, by improving the effectiveness of teachers, principals, and other school leaders.

    Program Examples: Training for identifying students affected by trauma and mental illness, learning methods to improve student behavior, identifying students for early interventions, and engaging parents, families, and communities.

    Title IV Part A: Improving Student Academic Achievement

    Federal funding from Title IV Part A helps schools improve student academic achievement by increasing the capacity to provide all students with access to a well-rounded education, improve school conditions for student learning, and improve the use of technology.

    Program Examples: Mentoring and counseling programs, establishing drop-out and re-entry programs, and integrating systems of student and family supports.

    AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education): Partnering for school-based mental health programs

    Federal AWARE grants promote the healthy and emotional development of school-aged youth and the prevention of youth violence in school settings. Funds are used to develop and implement a sustainable infrastructure for school-based mental health programs and services by leveraging partnerships between schools and SEAs, LEAs, and State Mental Health Agencies.

    Program Examples: SEL initiatives, training educators to detect and respond to mental health issues, and connecting children, youth, and families who experience behavioral health issues with appropriate services. 

    IDEA Part B (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act): Providing Specialized Funding to Support Children with Disabilities

    IDEA Part B is specialized federal funding that helps states provide free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for children aged three and older with special needs. These funds pay the excess costs of educating students with special needs, including therapeutic counseling services.

    Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration (MHSP): Building a Mental Health Professional Pipeline

    To expand the pipeline of much-needed trained professionals, Federal MHSP grants are used to support and demonstrate innovative partnerships between LEAs and institutions of higher education. Funds go toward training and placing highly qualified and diverse school-based mental health services providers into high-needs schools and LEAs.

    SBMH (School-Based Mental Health Services): Increasing School-Based Mental Health Service Providers

    SBMH grants are awarded to SEAs and LEAS to increase the number of credentialed school-based mental health service providers in LEAs with demonstrated need.

    Program Examples: Telehealth services, payment towards student loan repayments for service providers, promotion of cross-state licensing and certification reciprocity for service providers, and provisioning incentives for hiring (such as increased pay or flexibility).

    ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief): Addressing the Impact of COVID

    ESSER funds are awarded to SEAs, which award sub-grants to local educational agencies to address the impact of COVID-19 on children.

    GEER (Governor’s Emergency Education Relief): Helps Governor Support Education during COVID

    This federal grant is for governors, enabling them to better support and assist local education agencies, higher education institutions, and other educational entities with emergency assistance due to COVID-19. Schools must consider funding as they consider various programs and tools for their mental health.

    State-Specific Mental Health Funding

    States use funds from specific state appropriations, school funding models, earmarked tax revenue, and several federal sources — to support student mental health programs and services on the local level.

    Program Examples: School-based mental health programs and services, mental health, and wellness curricula, staff training and professional development, mental health screening, suicide-prevention programs, and hiring mental health services professionals.

    Funding is Available—So what’s the problem?

    A primary problem is the hoops that district must jump through to identify and apply for funding related to mental health. According to the NCES study mentioned above, among school staff that did not strongly believe they could provide mental health services, 48% cited inadequate funding as a barrier.

    The reason is clear. Schools aren’t designed to navigate the complex and time-consuming web of funding sources. It’s daunting, especially since many schools—such as those in rural districts—simply don’t have the resources and expertise to handle the process. For example, in 2019, the School Superintendent Association found that a quarter of rural districts no longer participated in one Medicaid program because the cost burden of complying with paperwork and administrative requirements caused them to lose money. 

    How can we improve the situation?

    Removing the Burden of Applying for School Grants

    Schools must consider funding as they consider various programs and tools for their mental health initiatives. In particular, they will need to understand and identify which funding sources are relevant and what it will take to complete the grant application process. Again, all this takes time, people, and other resources.

    When looking at solutions, the school should ask if grants will cover the product and if the vendor can help in the application process. For example, multiple federal programs will pay for STOPit Solutions’ Safety & Wellness Programs, which leverage mobile technologies to support the well-being of students and their families. 

    Are you accessing everything you can?

    Don’t lose out on the funding you need for the mental health and safety of your students and to connect families to the right school and community resources. STOPit ARS (Anonymous Reporting System) and HELPme are just two of the evidence-based, health-centered tools that can help schools protect the physical, social, and emotional well‑being of their students. Click below to learn more about funding options for your school district.

    school health & safety

    Tag(s): funding

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