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JCPS, Kentucky Agencies Benefit From Youth Mental Health Grants

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A small group of Kentucky school districts—including Jefferson County Public Schools—and two major state agencies have received school culture and mental health grants.

The awards are part of President Obama’s “Now Is The Time” plan, which a response to the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.It's also timely as JCPS has added mental health counselors to a few of its schools, recognizing the importance of reaching students in non-academic ways.The federal grants are coming from two separate federal departments—the Health and Human Services Department, which is doling out $99 million in mental health grants and the U.S. Department of Education, which is also awarding $70 million in school climate grants.Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services is receiving $1 million, which may be awarded each year for up to five years, according to state officials.Allie Rigsby of the Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children said  CHFS will partner with community health center providers Pathways, which serves eastern Kentucky counties, and Seven Counties Services based in Louisville to create youth drop-in centers that will offer non-traditional mental health and substance abuse treatment and vocational services.“It’s very tailored toward the youths need, more so than being a traditional clinical setting,” Rigsby said.The centers will provide employment support, peer support, youth-led treatments, and other services not traditionally offered in mental health centers, with hopes of providing early interventions and to reduce stigma of mental health in the community, said Rigsby.“There’s not a lot of opportunity for peer-to-peer interaction in a healthy healing way," Rigsby says. "I think this gives us an opportunity to have a physical location where those kinds of good services can be put to use and put out in the community,” Rigsby said.Jefferson County Public Schools is among nine school districts that also received grant funding.According to press releases from the U.S. Department of Education and the Health and Human Services department, JCPS is getting a combined $849,000 to help educate personnel on mental health issues and to connect students to resources.The money will also be used to support programs and plans that address student behavior and that help address the school to prison pipeline. A spokesman for JCPS said district officials are not ready to speak about the grant money. Fayette County Schools received $100,000 under the same grant. The school district will use the money to train not just educators, but also community members that interact with youth regularly, said Susan Decker Davis, coordinator of grant writing for FCS.Some staff from FCS have already been through the program that the grant money is funding, she said.“They said it’s fabulous, so we’re really excited,” said Davis.