IU awarded $10M to boost mental health services in schools
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded more than $10 million in grants to Indiana University as part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The university said Tuesday the funding will be used to increase access to mental health services in K-12 schools throughout the state.
The IU School of Social Work received a five-year, $5.7 million grant, which it will use to partner with multiple school districts, beginning with the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township in Indianapolis, the Tippecanoe School Corp. and Lafayette School Corp.
The goal of the funding is to increase access to school social workers, strengthen the pipeline of school social workers in all school districts; and offer four school social work courses online, in addition to in-person courses already offered, the university said.
“Indiana has what we call mental health deserts,” Barbara Pierce, professor in the IU School of Social Work, said in a news release. “We know there are places in Indiana that have a shortage of mental health providers and even psychiatrists and psychologists, so being able to increase mental health services in those geographic areas, particularly to children and youth in schools, allows for us to increase capacity for the state overall.”
Additionally, IU Kokomo, IU East in Richmond, and IU South Bend have received a five-year, $4.4 million grant for the Addressing Regional School Psychologist Shortages project, which aims to build a pipeline of licensed school psychologists who can provide school-based services in districts across the state.
The regional campuses will initially work with Kokomo School Corp., Richmond Community Schools and South Bend Community School Corp., with more districts being added over the life of the grant.
“There are school districts in Indiana that haven’t had a direct-hire school psychologist in nearly a decade because of the severe shortage of professionals,” said Leah Nellis, professor of education at IU Kokomo. “So much of mental health care is relationships, and when you are only able to offer part-time or virtual services, there’s really no opportunity to build those relationships and community.”
The university said the projects implemented through the grants align with its IU 2030 strategic plan.