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$4.4M grant to IU regional campuses will address community need for school psychologists

For Immediate Release May 22, 2023

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — At a time when nearly 90 percent of schools are reporting an increase in students seeking mental health services, the need for and shortage of school-based psychologists has never been greater. Three Indiana University regional campuses have received a five-year, $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s to address this significant gap.

The grant will help train future school psychologists and address the shortage of professionals in the field. Photo by Getty Im... The grant will help train future school psychologists and address the shortage of professionals in the field. Photo by Getty ImagesThe project, Addressing Regional School Psychologist Shortages through the IU Office of School Partnerships, will initially support three Indiana school districts: Kokomo School Corp., Richmond Community Schools and South Bend Community School Corp. Others will be added over the five-year grant term.

“There are school districts in Indiana that haven’t had a direct-hire school psychologist in nearly a decade because of the severe shortage of professionals,” said Leah Nellis, professor of education at IU Kokomo and senior advisor to IU regional campus K-12 initiatives. “So much of mental health care is relationships, and when you are only able to offer part-time or virtual services, there’s really no opportunity to build those relationships and community.”

The project’s big goal is to build a pipeline and develop a workforce of highly prepared and licensed school psychologists who can provide school-based services in districts across the state. This will primarily be accomplished through the newly approved IU Office of Collaborative Academic Programs’ Ed.S. in School Psychology, a hybrid program developed for working adults. The 65-credit-hour program is a collaboration between IU East, IU Kokomo, IU South Bend and IU Bloomington, and is between a master’s and doctoral degree in the field.

“South Bend Community School Corporation believes that this new program will be pivotal in the growth and expansion of services and supports provided to our students,” said Tonia Brewer, the school corporation’s director of exceptional learners. “We are excited to be part of it and hope this will become an example of how focused partnerships geared toward responding to the needs of our students provide access and opportunity for all.”

In addition, the grant will support the re-opening of the IU South Bend Community Counseling Clinic, which had previously served more than 100 families in the region free of charge. The clinic will be under the guidance of IU faculty and staffed by graduate students in the IU South Bend school psychology, school counseling and clinical mental health counseling programs. It will serve individuals, children and families in the South Bend community, as well as serving children and families in Richmond and Kokomo through virtual technology.

Each IU campus involved in the grant will have an on-campus contact so individuals can learn more about the program. They will also meet with partner school districts, the Indiana Association of School Psychologists and the Indiana Council of Administrators of Special Education.

“The collaboration that this grant is helping to support is unique in its own right,” said Sue Sciame-Giesecke, IU vice president for regional campuses and online education. “From the deans of our schools of education in Kokomo, Richmond and South Bend coming together to write the grant proposal, to the collaborative work with the local school districts and then the state associations who will help advise on the work, it’s a clear example of coming together to solve a problem right here in our local communities.”

Aligning with the university’s strategic plan, IU 2030, the work that will be accomplished through this grant will have a direct impact on communities across Indiana. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of 500 students to one school psychologist. The average ratio in Indiana for the 2021-22 school year was 1,502 students to one school psychologist.

“Seventy percent of kids who need mental health services will receive them in a school setting, making school psychologists critical in ensuring services are available and accessible within that setting,” Nellis said. “All of the districts we’re working with are classified as high need, based on student demographics as well as the number of mental health providers. If we can help these districts really hurting to provide what they need for their kids, we will make a significant difference in our communities and these kids’ futures.”

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