One of nine California districts to receive School-Based Mental Health Services Grant; Plans to add counseling and social work staff; partner with local universities
The La Mesa-Spring Valley School District has been awarded a grant by the US Department of Education. The grant, part of the School-Based Mental Health Services Program, will provide the district with $12 million over the next five years. The grant funding will be used to meet district-identified goals such as:
• Improve the ratio of mental health providers per student across the district
• Recruit and retain counselors and social workers from diverse backgrounds
• Establish and expand partnerships with institutions of higher learning to provide training and employment opportunities for providers that better reflect the district’s student population
“Since Covid we’ve seen an increase in the need for mental health care among our students,” says Jennifer Coronel, Director of Student Supports for La Mesa-Spring Valley Schools. “Increasing mental health services and supports is critical to helping our students to thrive both academically and socially-emotionally, and this grant will give us tremendous tools to do just that.”
Adding Staff; Creating Partnerships
The first goal will be met by hiring additional counselors and social workers, with at least eight positions slated to be hired in 2023. Additional staff will be added over the course of the grant to reflect the needs of each school.
The grant will provide funding and partnership opportunities for the district to more aggressively recruit counselors and social workers from diverse backgrounds that better reflect the student population. This includes creating partnerships with Hispanic Serving Institutions of higher education to provide stipends, training, and professional development for interns placed with LMSV schools; it may also offer hiring incentives for bi-lingual candidates.
“52% of our district’s population identifies as Hispanic, with 83.4% of those English learners listing Spanish as their primary language,” says Coronel. “Recruiting bilingual staff will make us more effective in serving students and families and meeting their needs. It will also make our team stronger and better equipped to understand and respond to those needs”
The district will hire a coordinator to oversee the process and training for the new hires.
La Mesa-Spring Valley was one of nine California school districts to receive the grant, and one of just 68 nationwide, placing the district in an exclusive group.
“With extensive research into the mental health services needed in our schools, our student supports team worked incredibly hard to write this grant,” says Superintendent David Feliciano. “We’re so proud of our staff and their dedication to secure the resources necessary to positively impact the social-emotional health of our students. We could not be happier.”
The district hopes that this grant will lead to other opportunities to provide a greater depth of service for students in the future. “We have several other grant proposals in process now,” says Coronel, “and we hope that seeing a district our size being awarded such a sizable grant will help other grant organizations see our commitment to serving the whole student.”