FISHERS, Ind. (WISH)– Hamilton Southeastern Schools plans to use a multi-million dollar grant to bolster mental health programs and expand student access to mental health services.
The $5.7 million grant, from the U.S. Department of Education as part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, is the largest competitive grant the school district has ever received.
HSE Schools has already received the money. School leaders say it will be used over the next five years to hire more school counselors for secondary school students, more school social workers to help elementary-aged students, and extra school psychologists to benefit the entire district.
“The American School Counselor Association recommends a 1-to-250 ratio of school counselors to students. The most recent statewide data shows that Indiana ranks last for the number of school counseling professionals serving young Hoosiers,” HSE Schools said in a statement Tuesday.
Brooke Lawson, the mental health and school counseling coordinator for HSE Schools, says the grant will bridge a significant funding gap for schools in the district.
“It’s been a need for us because all kids experience challenges. HSE doesn’t get all the funding that other districts do because we’re a relatively affluent community, and a lot of times, districts will use different types of funding we don’t have access to. So, it’s exciting; we will now have access to that support because it doesn’t matter how much money you have, that doesn’t protect you from struggling with a mental health issue or challenges you just need a little more help on,” Lawson said.
HSE Schools says it plans to hire social workers and three additional psychologists this year and then build on those numbers for the next five years.
School leaders say the search for qualified candidates will begin in the coming weeks.