The Marshall School District is among the 120 public school districts and one independent charter school receiving a portion of the Department of Public Instruction’s $6.5 million for services to support students’ mental health. The funding comes from the School-Based Mental Health Services Grants Program. Marshall will receive $51,597 for two years.

Marshall School Superintendent Dan Grady said this was the first year the district has received the grant; district social workers Ann Lauritzen and Andrea Fresen submitted the grant application.

“This was a very competitive grant, so we are very excited that Marshall was awarded funds. As social workers, we are always thinking how we can best serve the community and decrease barriers for students,” Fresen said. “Across the state schools are working to improve their partnerships to better support students and families. This will definitely help our district focus on that exact thing. We are working with district administrators to make sure that what we do aligns and corresponds with district wide goals.”

Lauritzen said the funds will be used to provide staff training in the areas of trauma and the impact it has on students’ and families’ mental health, suicide awareness and prevention, the connections between AODA prevention and mental health, and direct student support in collaboration with community agencies.

The money will also support the creation of staff professional development for mental health wellness.

“As social workers in the district, along with most educators today, we believe that supporting students’ and families’ social/emotional/behavioral health is as important as supporting their academic growth,” she said. “The Department of Public Instruction has created social/emotional/behavioral standards, much like academic standards, that research has shown directly impact the life-long success of children.”

Lauritzen added with increasing mental health wellness needs and significant cuts in education, the schools know awareness, prevention and training will support all staff in ensuring the district’s students and families will have the support needed to succeed.

Student mental health has continued to be an increasingly important topic among schools.

“According to the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey results, more than four in ten students had a mental health need over the previous year,” State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor said. “These grants will help those children. Students in every region of our state, in small and large districts, rural and urban communities, and everywhere in between, will benefit from mental health services they wouldn’t otherwise receive.”

Before passage of the state’s 2019-21 biennial budget, annual funding for the mental health program was $3.25 million. The department allocated this funding in June, notifying 51 grantees of their awards for the 2019-20 school year. Applications greatly exceeded available support. After the new state budget doubled the program’s funding, the department allocated awards to another 54 grantees from the same application pool. Among the awardees, 97 are individual school districts, eight are consortiums representing an additional 23 districts, and one is an independent charter school operator.

School-Based Mental Health Services grants provide services such as those connecting students and families with community mental health providers, educating youth for social and emotional learning, and training educators to prevent and mitigate the impacts of traumatic exposure on youth. Based on newly compiled information about last year’s grants, the department estimates the grants will allow at least 120,000 students to receive mental health services from a school or community mental health provider during the coming school year.

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