Hamilton Southeastern Schools received a grant of $5,762,815 Jan. 10 from the U.S. Dept. of Education as part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to increase the number of school-based mental health professionals serving the district’s 21,500 students.
The School Based Mental Health Services, or SBMH, grant will provide funding to recruit, prepare, hire and train highly qualified school-based mental health professionals, which includes school counselors, school psychologists and school social workers over the next five years.
“Currently, the ratio of school-based mental health professionals-to-students in Hamilton Southeastern is high, resulting in barriers for K-12 students to access needed supports and interventions,” Mental Health and School Counseling Coordinator Brooke Lawson stated.
Lawson, who will help administer the grant, said HSE will focus on adding support at the secondary level by hiring additional school counselors; primary students will be better served by an increased number of school social workers; and districtwide, extra school psychologists will be added.
The American School Counselor Association recommends a 1:250 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.
“We know students can’t perform to the best of their ability when they are experiencing mental health challenges,” HSE Supt. Yvonne Stokes said. “Through this grant, HSE has the opportunity to expand its capacity of diverse service providers to address the unique individual needs of each student and family we serve.”
HSE will begin seeking qualified candidates for the additional positions in the coming weeks.