The Department of Public Instruction on Monday announced a series of new grants totaling $3.2 million for mental health services in schools, but State Superintendent Tony Evers and advocacy groups, including WEAC, said much more is needed.
“In a given year, one in five students faces a mental health issue, with more than 80 percent of incidents going untreated,” Evers said. “Those students who do get help, more often than not, receive it through their school. This grant is a good start toward student mental health needs. But, we absolutely must do more to address student mental health so our kids have the support they need to be successful in school and eventually their communities.”
In a news release DPI said students deal with the same mental health issues as adults, such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, and substance abuse. Whether treated or not, these problems can tie into major challenges found in schools: chronic absence, low achievement, disruptive behavior, and dropping out.
In addition to the grants announced Monday, the DPI budget proposal calls for:
- $44 million in aid for social workers and mental health staff in schools to address the low ratio of social workers to students.
- $10 million to fund collaborative grants between schools and hospitals.
- $5 million in specialized support for mental health training in schools.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel quotes DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy as saying the ratio of social workers to students has been rising since 2012 to a figure “astronomically out of whack compared to national numbers.” In 2012, the ratio was one social worker to 1,050 students.
Calling state support for mental services in schools “sorely lacking,” state schools Superintendent Tony Evers Monday called for a 10-fold increase in funding. “This is a huge issue for the state of Wisconsin,” Evers said at a press conference at Schenk Elementary School on Madison’s east side.
The state Department of Public Instruction on Monday called for more than $60 million in new spending on mental health in Wisconsin schools. The budget proposal calls for: $44 million in aid for social workers and mental health staff in schools to address the low ratio of social workers to students.