The New Jersey Department of Education will receive $2.7 million, the Passaic Board of Education will receive $279,059 and Kean University will receive $808,332 as part of more than $188 million that the U.S. Department of Education awarded to 170 grantees in over 30 states to increase access to school-based mental health services and to strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-needs districts.

Both the NJDOE and the Passaic Board of Education will receive the funds under a school-based mental health services grant opportunity, while Kean will receive a mental health service professional demonstration grant.

On a nationwide level, the grants will enable communities to hire approximately 5,400 school-based mental health professionals and train an estimated 5,500 more to build a diverse pipeline of mental health providers in schools, according to a USDOE news release.

These competitive grants are the first in a series of awards the USDOE will make over several years and constitute the largest investment in school-based mental health this country has ever made.

Even before the pandemic, the well-being of many students was unmet due to insufficient access to high-quality mental health care. For years, schools have struggled to meet the recommended ratios for school-based mental health professionals, and this is especially true in schools with more underserved students. Research shows that children and young people learn more, report feeling safer and develop more trusting relationships with their peers and teachers when their social and emotional needs are met with certified and accessible mental health professionals.

“Even before the disruption, isolation, and trauma of the pandemic, youth rates of anxiety and depression, and other mental health challenges were on the rise, and too many students suffered in silence,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Mental health and wellness have profound implications for our students, their academic success and their overall outcomes – and we know that youth facing mental health challenges are more likely to receive services in a school-based setting. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act represents an unprecedented opportunity to raise the bar for our support of our students, to improve learning conditions in our schools, to expand access to school-based mental health care, and to supercharge efforts across the country to train and hire a pipeline of professionals committed to the well-being of our students.”

Through the school-based mental health services grant program, the USDOE is investing more than $141 million to 103 states and school districts to increase the number of qualified mental health services providers delivering school-based mental health services to students. Through the mental health service professional demonstration grant program, the USDOE is investing more than $46 million in competitive grants to 67 states, school districts, and institutions of higher education to support and demonstrate innovative partnerships to train school-based mental health services providers for employment in schools and local educational agencies.

You can learn more and see a full list of grant recipients by referring to the full news release.