Mass. education officials focus on student’s mental health

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education plan to focus on student's mental health.
Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 4:54 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2022 at 6:05 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA. (WGGB/WHSM) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, 1 in 6 kids in the United States between the ages of 6 and 17, suffer from a mental health disorder.

Now, an expanded grant program in Bay State is allowing the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to help with student mental health.

This grant was originally implemented in 2021 to combat the mental health issues associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now in 2022, the grant aims to reach more communities and present more opportunities for schools to help fight the ongoing battle against mental health disorders.

“We want to acknowledge that times are still challenging as we’ve talked about, the recovery will be long, but there is hope…the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, continuing its fight to combat mental health disorders in the classroom,” said Kristen McKinnon, from DESE.

Spotlighting the state’s social-emotional learning and mental health grant program at Tuesday’s board meeting - DESE says they now have enough state and federal funding to assist 110 communities in the state. Easthampton Public Schools received more than $160,000 last year.

Easthampton Mayor Nicole Lachapelle told Western Mass News since the Covid-19 pandemic there’s a greater need for mental health services for school-age kids. “During the pandemic, we saw students from pre-k to 12 exhibiting behaviors and talking in a way that was very different from the expectations set by their age. Or where they were developmental. That has been directly connected to the stressors of the pandemic,” said Nicole Lachapelle.

Diane Ellis is the people services director for the Gill-Montague Regional School District which received $150,000 from the original grant money.

She told us more about the programs the money was spent on.

“What it allowed us to do was a very comprehensive self-assessment of our existing programs, and support past efforts… we’ve brought in a district social worker to be able to provide some resources to families,” said Diane Ellis.

The schools have limits on how they can use the funds.

The money has to be used in a way that aligns with the grant’s purpose.

Such as coaching teachers, professional mental health services, and community-based partnerships.

DESE hopes grant programs like this one can make a difference.

“We want to acknowledge that times are still challenging as we’ve talked about, the recovery will be long, but there is hope,” Kristen McKinnon.

DESE says they’re aiming for more focus on telehealth and other virtual care opportunities for students.

“We’re seeing amazing work in our schools and districts of educators supporting our students and meeting the needs that they have and we know that there’s still work to do,” Kristen McKinnon.

School districts interested in this funding can apply through DESE.