Improving mental health services a priority for local school districts

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) -- School districts across the state are taking advantage of some grant money when it comes to improving mental health services in schools.

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“Student needs are growing in this area and we know we can’t do this work alone,” said Jennifer Garceau, director of student services for Howard-Suamico School District.

For the first time, the Howard-Suamico School District is joining more than 100 other school districts across the state in splitting a large-sum of grant money specifically for mental health services for schools.

The Howard-Suamico School District is set to get $75,000 from the grant program and they already know what they want to do with the money, starting with strengthening community partner relationships.

“We have counselors from outside agencies in some of our schools, we would like to grow that capacity and then also growing new partnerships throughout the community,” said Garceau, “If we can’t service student needs throughout the school day, what other community partnerships can we be looking at.”

Garceau said ‘Allies in Mental Health’ will help them figure out what they are missing and change it, in the right way.

“We will be having a coach, someone will coach us through that just so we are making the right decisions,” said Garceau. “So we are looking at holistically, universally what could we be doing, but how can we build our framework, so building systems of support for all students but in the right way.”

Garceau said student’s needs are changing all the time and this is one way to change with them.

“Whatever they are coming to school with on a daily basis, whether challenges at home, learning needs, or anxiety or things like that, whatever needs they have in our school building, we want to be able to meet those needs and help students become the most successful they could be,” said Garceau.

That goal is shared by multiple school districts in the area, including Ashwaubenon. This will be their second year getting grant money.

“Research has found that students identified with mental health issues are typically identified prior to 16 and we as school districts touch most of the students in that age range and below so it’s a natural place for them to get mental health services,” said Tammy Nicholson, director of pupil services with the Ashwaubenon School District.

Last year, Nicholson said Ashwaubenon used the money on a wellness coordinator who set up mental health services in the school, expanded on-site counseling to four buildings and sent staff to training.

With the more than $73,000 they are set to get this year, Nicholson said they will expand their mental health coordinator position, increase staff training and purchase the Hope Squad Curriculum.

“Which is a suicide curriculum that works on peer mentoring so peers can help others to recognize signs of mental health struggles, suicide ideology and ways to respond/report and work together to keep kids safe,” said Nicholson.

Here’s a list of school districts in the area that are part of the Mental Health Services Grant Program:
• Appleton Area School District $65,000
• Ashwaubenon School District $73,650
• De Pere School District $74,674
• Door County School Board $75,000
• Fond du Lac School District $75,000
• Green Bay Area Public School District $75,000
• Howard-Suamico School District $75,000
• Little Chute Area School District $39,540
• Marinette School District $75,000
• Menasha Joint School District $73,912
• North Fond du Lac School District $75,000
• Oshkosh Area School District $75,000
• Waukesha School District $65,000
• Wrightstown Community School District $75,000