DHS announces mental health grants to intermediate school districts

November 21, 2018 12:22 AM

The Minnesota Department of Human Services has announced a total of $4.9 million in mental health grants will be awarded to intermediate school districts in the state.

It's part of what is called the School Innovation Grant initiative.


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The funding is meant to help specialized school districts provide mental health services to children, including those who have experienced trauma.

In addition to Plymouth, the state awarded grant money to other intermediate school districts across the metro. 

Grants were awarded to:

  • The Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, in partnership with Intermediate School District 287 in Plymouth ($1,973,612).
  • The Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District in White Bear Lake, in partnership with Canvas Group Health and Family Innovations ($1,497,916).
  • Greater Minnesota Family Services, in partnership with Southwest West Central Service Coop in Marshall ($421,992).
  • Intermediate School District 917 in Rosemount ($580,604).
  • Scott County Mental Health Center, in partnership with SouthWest Metro Intermediate District 288, Shakopee ($425,876).

Intermediate School Districts, like 287 in Plymouth, offers highly specialized programming for students, many who have experienced trauma.

"They are children who are going through a lot of trauma. They have experienced a lot of trauma even before they come to school," said Principal of North Education Center, Tonya Allen.

She currently has 280 students at all grade levels. The school will benefit from $1.8 million in mental health money.

That money goes to the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, who then has staff in the North Education Center working directly with students. 

"What that has paid for is to have those therapeutic services; it's paid to have a family navigator because we have quite a few students who are homeless and highly mobile, and it's also paid for individual and family therapy," she said.

Kindergarten through second-grade students will be the focus of the services.

"We know they are expensive now but unless we interrupt the pattern that we are seeing, they are going to be expensive kids and citizens to serve throughout their whole life," said Superintendent Sandy Lewandowski. But, she adds that's only part of helping kids in crisis.

"Once you know what has happened to a student who has had trauma, you are morally compelled to do and provide for them a way to overcome it," she said.

The one-time money will last two years, but Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius says the need certainly won't end there.

"We need to do a better job of providing counselors and social workers and nurses into our schools to support our great teachers who are trying to do wrap around services," she said.

The goal of the one time, two-year grants is to improve outcomes for students and eventually help them return to their home school districts.

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Jessica Miles & Frank Rajkowski

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