A few Indiana school corporations will divvy up $9 million to improve mental health support, and while the number of schools receiving the money may be small, officials say they’ll influence efforts across the state.
Over the next five years, the Vigo County, Perry Central and Avon Community School Corporations will work with the state and split the federal grant. The goal is to build up community-based services and programming to support students’ wellbeing.
Avon High School Assistant Principal Stephanie Bode says it’s exciting, in part because students have asked for more focus on mental health, especially in conversations around how to keep schools safe.
“Students recognize too the need for this type of support for one another, meaning that mental health is a part of school safety,” she says.
The grant, offered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is called Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education, or AWARE, and is provided to schools across all 50 states.
Bode says the grant’s mission aligns with work already being done to address all of a student’s needs and promote better understanding.
“We are working with the whole child and we’ve used the metaphor of the backpack: there’s things that kids carry that you can’t see,” she says.
Some of the grant money will stay with the Indiana Department of Education to support work focused on professional development resources and collaboration with the Family and Social Services Administration’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction.
IDOE spokesperson Adam Baker says the grant award marks important progress on one of the department’s – and many in the field’s – main priorities.
“One of the key focuses for us is on assessing emotional and social wellbeing as well as being able to address it,” Baker says. “To have access to these grants and be able to put our money where our mouth is, and put it into creating systems of care and creating these opportunities to better assess and address mental wellbeing and social emotional support – it’s just huge.”
Baker says the three districts – one rural, one suburban and one urban – will act as a sort of testing ground for models other schools across the state can look to as they build up programs of their own.