State superintendent: Use some safety grant funding for mental health programs

State schools Superintendent Tony Evers is urging Attorney General Brad Schimel to use some of the remaining money from school safety grants to invest in mental health programs. In a letter Friday, Evers asked him to consider several programs for some of the money:

  • Collaborative Community/School Mental Health Grants. Evers wrote his agency received nearly $8 million in high-quality grant requests, but only $3.25 million was available.
  • Aid for School Mental Health Programs. Evers wrote $3 million was appropriated, resulting in the money being prorated because there were $14 million in eligible costs.

Evers also urged Schimel to consider several training opportunities, including: Trauma-Sensitive
Schools; Youth Mental Health First Aid; and Screening, Brief, Intervention and Referral to Treatment.

“These are opportunities to immediately meet the needs of schools and students and fully fund our shared commitment to student and family mental health,” Evers wrote. “I remain committed to working together in the best interest of our kids.”

Read the letter:

Attorney General Schimel, Sen. Darling, and Rep. Nygren:

I appreciated the opportunity to consultant on the School Safety Grants recently distributed under
2017 Wisconsin Act 143. I was particularly pleased with the inclusion of training around
Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Mental health work
is a critical component of a comprehensive approach to school and student safety.
As you consider how best to move forward with the remaining funds, please be aware that
several of mental health programs adopted in the recent state budget will be prorated based on
strong demands from schools and community partners. Those include:

  • Collaborative Community/School Mental Health Grants. These grants support school
    and community health providers in expanding mental health services to students.
    The department received nearly $8 million in high-quality grant requests; however, there
    is only $3.25 million available to award. Providing an additional $4.75 million would
    allow the department to immediately fund these critical projects.
  • Aid for School Mental Health Programs. This successful initiative has resulted in
    expanded hiring of school social workers across Wisconsin to meet student needs.

While $3 million was appropriated, there will be an estimated $14 million in eligible
costs, resulting in proration. Providing an additional $11.2 million would allow the
department to fully reimburse school districts for adding frontline mental health staff.
You also has identified additional training opportunities as a priority item for the remaining
funds. The state budget appropriated $420,000 for statewide training in Trauma-Sensitive
Schools (TSS); Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA); and Screening, Brief, Intervention
and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Additional funds could be allocated to expand these training
opportunities and defray costs for participating schools.

These are opportunities to immediately meet the needs of schools and students and fully fund our
shared commitment to student and family mental health. I remain committed to working together
in the best interest of our kids.

As such, I am asking you to use your authority under Wisconsin §13.10 to fully fund these
critical mental health and school safety programs and expand training opportunities for school
and community staff.

Sincerely,
Tony Evers
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