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Hamilton Southeastern Schools receives millions for more mental health services

(WISH Photo)

FISHERS, Ind. — With millions of dollars, school officials are set to bring more mental health services to Hamilton Southeastern Schools.

They say for years, there haven’t been enough mental health professionals to help students.

“As a district, we don’t have the funding to hire these positions right now, so being able to have that extra support is really important to us,” the mental health and school counseling coordinator at HSE, Brooke Lawson, said.

Hamilton Southeastern Schools’ students can expect to see more school counselors, psychologists, and social workers over the next five years.

It’s thanks to a $5.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education as part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

The goal is to reduce violence in the country.

“It’s tremendously important. As a parent, I would love to think that they’ll come to me with all of their problems, but I know that’s not realistic and also, they’re dealing with so many different things than when I was their age,” Lori Lambert, a parent, said.

According to Lawson, they’ve seen a gap between student needs and available mental health services.

“We are the fourth largest district in the state of Indiana and our schools are not as staffed as some of the other larger districts across the state, so I think we were able to really show that we had a need and that we have those large caseloads,” Lawson said.

The grant will focus on providing more school counselors for high schoolers and social workers for elementary students.

This year, this district plans to hire four counselors and three psychologists. In year three, it will hire social workers.

“Our social workers are short term support. They’re not necessarily a long term therapist, but they are a short term support for kids who they just need a little help. They need someone to walk alongside them, teach them some skills that they might be lacking, and also work with their parents as well,” Lawson said.

Lambert says she’s looking forward to these changes for her daughter, especially after COVID-19.

“Anything they can do in the current classroom setting to help maybe her, and other students get over that, so they can continue to integrate, move on, and flourish is greatly appreciated,” Lambert said.

“We are thrilled about and grateful for this grant, the expanded access it provides, and the many ways this exposure will shift the ways our community thinks, talks, acts, and cares about mental health and wellness,” Scott Fussell, a parent of an HSE graduate, said.

HSE says the goal is to make the new positions permanent.

The district adds it will begin seeking qualified candidates for these additional positions in the coming weeks.