A multi-million dollar grant will improve mental health services for Kentucky students
Two Kentucky educational cooperatives will receive $16.9 million to train, employ, and retain mental health counselors in school districts across western and central Kentucky.
Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman announced the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative will receive $13.9 million that will fund multiple mental health counselors in 36 school districts in central Kentucky. The organization will partner with Western Kentucky University to recruit, train and hire 45 licensed mental health counselors who will serve students in 184 schools.
The West Kentucky Educational Cooperative will receive $2.9 million for mental health services. WKEC will work with Murray State University to train 30 mental health providers and place them in 14 school districts in the region.
Lt. Gov. Coleman said having more trained mental health professionals will benefit the state’s education system.
“First of all, it takes a burden off the classroom teacher because we’re already asking them to do so much," Coleman said. "But also it helps our students to be able to balance the challenges they're dealing with school work and they’ve got someone in their corner and that’s really what this is really all about.”
Mental health problems for the commonwealth’s youth are on the rise. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, 15% of Kentucky high school students have considered suicide.
Funding for the grant comes from the U.S. Department of Education.
According to Lt. Gov. Coleman, more funding for future mental health services would continue to be a priority for the administration.
“This is a piece of a much larger pie that we have been very fortunate to connect with and bring to Kentucky,” Coleman said. “Over $40 million worth of funding for our schools for mental health services across the state of Kentucky and we are not done yet.”
A portion of the funding will go toward an initiative to retain trained counselors in rural communities where mental health services might not be accessible to students.
Todd Hazel is a director of Lifeskills, an organization that specializes in mental health services for children and young adults in Kentucky. He said the organization will be working with GRECC to create a program that models the "Grow Your Own" program to train and place mental health professionals in school districts across central Kentucky.
The "Grow Your Own" Program is a state effort that is used to support pathways for future teachers and educators.
According to Hazel, the focus is to retain those mental health professionals long term.
"I'm so excited with the partnership to be able to take students and mold them and shape them and have them ready in a few years to take the helm of that district or schools and do great things," Hazel said. "So it's not just something where we're going to be to put someone there for a few years and then pull them out. We're going to be able to help train someone that after that three years, they can stay in that district and continue to be able to provide those services."