U.S. DOE awards $100 million in mental health grants to support K-12 schools

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The Department of Education awarded nearly $100 million in grants to support mental health and student wellness across 35 states as part of the $286 million awarded to 264 grantees nationwide using funds from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

The announcement comes as part of President Joe Biden’s administration’s National Mental Health Strategy intended to support struggling students by doubling the number of support staff in schools such as school counselors, social workers and other mental health providers. 

The money went to local school districts, education organizations, universities and local governments, including the City of Boston.

Fort Wayne Community Schools in Indiana received the largest Mental Health Service Professional grant this week of $1,999,242. It was followed by Green River Regional Educational Cooperative, which received $1,777,549, and Poudre School District in northern Colorado, awarded $1,712,263. 

The Trustees of Indiana University received more than $1 million and the Solano County Superintendent of Schools received more than $800,000, according to the list of grantees that the Department of Education released Monday.

The federal education agency previously sent $122 billion in American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds. The Education Department claims that more than $2 billion of that has been used to hire mental health staff for K-12 schools. 

On Sunday, the Biden administration released a statement touting 13 actions it has taken to reduce gun violence on the anniversary of the Buffalo, New York, shooting and near the anniversary of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which included the Education Department awards. 

The administration claims that the Education Department grants will lead to 14,000 new mental health professionals in schools. The department also gave states $1 billion via the Stronger Connections grant program, which intended the money to support safe schools. 

The department said that the $1 billion it awarded in grants support “evidence-based strategies that advance equity and support student social, emotional, physical and mental well-being.”

The spending on mental health in schools stems from concerns about rising rates of hopelessness and suicide ideation. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey data show that 42% of high school students in 2021 “felt persistently sad or hopeless” and 29% “experienced poor mental health.”

Additionally, the CDC’s surveys found that 22% of high school students considered attempting suicide and 10% attempted suicide. Female students disproportionately reported feeling persistently sad or suicidal. 

Brendan Clarey
Brendan Clarey is K-12 editor at Chalkboard Review. Reach him at bclarey@franklinnews.org.

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