Mental health support in schools gets $3.4 million boost

  • Monday, November 11, 2019 5:08pm
  • News

Kent School District news release

Today’s students need a variety of supports to address growing mental health challenges, and schools increasingly recognize that they can’t do it alone – it takes an integrated model connecting schools, families and community resources to give kids the best chance.

Addressing mental health needs through a systematic approach so students, staff, and teachers can thrive is at the heart of the $3.4 million in grants Kaiser Permanente in Washington recently awarded six school districts.

Highline Public Schools and Northwest Educational Service District (supporting Sedro Wooley and Mount Vernon school districts with these funds) are building out multi-tiered systems of supports, referred to as MTSS, for mental health in schools with the help of two $1.5 million, 3-year grants. Bellingham, Kent, Tenino, and North Thurston districts are establishing the framework for this model, thanks to another $400,000 in grants from the Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools program.

KSD applied for $500,000 and was awarded $96,000 over the next two years. KSD has already begin to use the grant funds to provide support of the implementation of multi-tiered systems of support. Just last month, additional training to MTSS teams began at 10 schools around Tier 2 and Tier 3 resources and supports to increase understanding of trauma informed practices, and support schools with a student-led mental health campaign.

MTSS is a service delivery framework that focuses on prevention and problem-solving through academic and nonacademic interventions, supports, and services available in schools and communities to eliminate barriers to learning and teaching. (See graphic attached.)

“The most exciting part of the Kaiser grant is the focus on skill building for adults. Our team is brainstorming creative, sustainable ways to also incorporate staff wellness into the workday,” said Cheri Simpson, assistant director, Kent School District. “To best serve the needs of our students, we need to ensure our staff have strategies to support students coping with trauma and manage their own stress.”

The tiers of support in MTSS increase in intensity from one level to the next. For example, some kids receiving small-group interventions may need to move up to one-on-one help. The goal is to be responsive to changing needs and keep students in school as they work through issues.

Jill Patnode, Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools program manager, said, “A recent environmental scan of schools across the region clearly identified mental health needs as a top priority and deep interest in this model.” Shared during the MTSS Fest hosted by the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the scan served as the basis for the design of these grants.

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