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IU to receive more than $10 million in grants to expand mental health access

(Provided Photo/Indiana University)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana University announced that it has received more than $10 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education to increase access to mental health services in schools across the state.

According to a release made Tuesday, the grants are part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which works to combat the mental health crisis in schools.

The IU School of Social Work received a five-year, $5.7 million grant, which will be used to work with several Indiana school districts, including Pike Township in Indianapolis, Tippecanoe School Corporation, and Lafayette School Corporation.

Barbara Pierce, professor at the IU School of Social Work, described in the release that Indiana is full of “mental health deserts.”

“We know there are places in Indiana that have a shortage of mental health providers, 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,” Pierce said.

Additionally, IU Kokomo, IU East, and IU South Bend earned a $4.4 million grant to address the need for school psychologists.

These schools will work with the Addressing Regional School Psychologist Shortages project, and work with the Kokomo School Corporation, Richmond Community Schools, and South Bend Community School Corporation to provide them direct access to mental health professionals.

“There are school districts in Indiana that haven’t had a school psychologist in nearly a decade because of the severe shortage of professionals,” Leah Nellis, professor of education at IU Kokomo, said in the release.

Nellis added, “Much of mental health care is relationships, and when you’re only able to offer part-time or virtual services, there’s no opportunity to build those relationships or community.”

These grants will add to the work the School of Education in Bloomington is doing to recruit, train, and retrain school counselors in the Richland Beanblossom Community School District. It also aligns with IU 2030, the university’s plan to impact communities and support mental wellness across Indiana.