DPI announces $12M in grant funds to address student mental health - TAI News
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The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announced March 27 it is allocating almost $12 million in federal funds to local school districts to address student mental health.

The DPI is distributing the money to 40 school systems across the state.

The funds are from the Stronger Connections Grant Program, part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that President Joe Biden signed into law in June 2022.

“I am grateful for this funding from our federal partners, and Wisconsin should now step up to the plate and do more to meet the very real needs of our kids,” Superintendent Jill Underly, who heads the DPI, said in a statement. “Our state currently has the means to make a tremendous difference in the mental health of our kids, and I will continue fighting for our schools to be equipped with staff and the resources to do so. It is critical we come together to support our kids as they endure mounting mental health challenges.”

The news comes amid a mental health crisis in schools across the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed as many as 42% of students reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day in 2021, the most recent year for which data is available. The survey data shows that the percentage has increased steadily since 2015, after having been stable at around 29% for at least 16 years before that.

According to the DPI’s statement, the grant money will help schools “implement comprehensive, evidence based strategies and increase access to place-based interventions and services.”

Specifically, the money is intended to be used for the promotion of mental health, early intervention, treatment and crisis support, according to information from the DPI.

Schools have wide latitude to determine the specifics of how they will spend the money as long as it is used in those categories. Some examples shared by the state include bullying prevention, suicide prevention, mental and behavioral health screening, services and treatment for students experiencing mental health issues, and reentry plans for students returning from care.

School districts are eligible for grant funds if they can show that a high number or percentage of their students live in poverty, along with low numbers of mental health professionals proportionate to their student populations and high levels of chronic absenteeism, suspensions or expulsions.

The maximum allowable grant for a district with more than 3,000 K-12 students is $400,000, according to the DPI, while the maximum grant for a district with less than that number of students is $300,000.

The state does list some categories that it explicitly does not allow schools to use the grant money for, including food costs and construction, renovation or repair of school facilities.

Some of the school districts that will receive grant money are the Madison Metropolitan School District, the West Salem School District, the Sheboygan Area School District, and the Eau Claire Area School District.

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