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Over $10M in grants will address need for more mental health services in Indiana schools

For Immediate Release May 23, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana University has received more than $10 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education to increase access to mental health services in school districts across Indiana.

Megan Ulrich is the mental health liaison for Tippecanoe School Corporation, one of the districts who will partner with IU on one of the ... Megan Ulrich is the mental health liaison for Tippecanoe School Corporation, one of the districts who will partner with IU on one of the grants. Photo courtesy of Tippecanoe School Corporation

The grants are part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which aims to tackle the mental health crisis in schools.

The IU School of Social Work received a five-year, $5.7 million grant, which will allow the school to partner with multiple Indiana school districts, starting with Metropolitan School District of Pike Township in Indianapolis, Tippecanoe School Corporation and Lafayette School Corporation. The goal is to increase access to school social workers; strengthen the pipeline of school social workers in all school districts across Indiana; and offer four school social work courses online, in addition to the in-person courses already offered.

“Indiana has what we call ‘mental health deserts,’” said Barbara Pierce, professor in the IU School of Social Work. “We know there are places in Indiana that have a shortage of mental health providers and even psychiatrists and psychologists, so being able to increase mental health services in those geographic areas, particularly to children and youth in schools, allows for us to increase capacity for the state overall. ”

Three IU regional campuses — IU Kokomo, IU East and IU South Bend — received a $4.4 million grant to address the need for school psychologists. The 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.”

Both of these grants will add to the work the School of Education in Bloomington is doing with a five-year, $3.4 million grant to recruit, train and retain school counselors in the Richland Bean Blossom Community School District.

Aligning with the university’s strategic plan, IU 2030, the work accomplished through these grants will have a direct impact on communities across Indiana. Learn more about each grant, as well as the many ways Indiana University is supporting mental health wellness across the state and the country.

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