3 Central Valley school districts awarded federal grants to bolster student mental health

Vanessa Vasconcelos Image
Saturday, February 18, 2023
3 Central Valley school districts awarded federal grants to bolster student mental health
The Biden administration has awarded $188 million to bolster school mental health services across the country. Three of the 170 grant recipients are right here in the valley.

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- The district officials, we spoke with, say this will not only add mental health professionals to already existing wellness programs... they plan to pair that with curriculum focused on coping and support strategies as well.

Federal dollars are giving several Central Valley School districts tools to prioritize student wellness services.

On the list of School-Based Mental Health Services grant recipients, Madera Unified will receive nearly $1.3 million for 2023.

School Culture and Climate director Karen Deorian says the grant comes at a time when class disruptions are starting to escalate, something she attributes to pandemic trauma.

"We're seeing kids throwing chairs over throwing desks over," Deorian says. "They're so dis-regulated emotionally that just a minor response can set them off."

The dollars will be used to provide direct services at school sites, bringing their already existing social worker intern program from 1 to 2 interns per year to 18.

"Credentialed social workers on school sites to supervise these interns so we're going to be able to get social workers on all of our elementary campuses," Deorian says.

The internship program will now be incentivized to attract more applicants with the hopes of retaining them for the district.

Cutler-Orosi joint unified school district grant project director Antonio Quintanilla wrote Monson Sultana school district into their proposal. The districts combined will receive nearly 3 million dollars for the next year.

Superintendent Yolanda Valdez says the collaboration made for a strong application addressing the needs of under-served students.

"These outlying communities that don't have the city resources and mental health services that are available in the city," Valdez says.

Like Madera, this will bolster already existing socio-emotional staff and services -- adding more psychologists, social workers and counselors as well as coping and support training added to curriculum.

"What we're seeing in the last couple of years we've ever seen before our students are in great need of emotional support and mental health," Valdez says.

We reached out to the Tulare County Office of Education but weren't available for comment.

When it comes to this grant money, as long as recipients continue to meet requirements including matching 20 percent, they'll be awarded the same dollar amount each year for five years.

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