Funding to improve mental health services for students

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A local school division is one of six across Virginia that is getting funding to improve mental health services for students.

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced on Thursday that the Virginia Department of Education has received a five-year, $2.5 million grant.

According to a release, the funds were awarded under the U.S. Department of Education's Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program and will support VDOE and the University of Virginia in developing a statewide training and professional development network to increase the quantity and quality of school mental health professionals.

The six school divisions that will receive the grant funding are Charlottesville City Schools, Buckingham County Public Schools, Hampton Public Schools, Roanoke Public Schools, Staunton Public Schools and Waynesboro Public Schools.

The release says these divisions were picked for this based on the criteria of the federal grant program, which focuses on improving mental health services in schools in small cities and rural areas where there are high percentages of economically disadvantaged students.

"Mental health can affect students' learning, development, relationships and physical health," said Lane. "The most positive outcomes occur when mental health services are provided by high-quality professionals. This grant will support the Commonwealth's effort to create a pipeline of high-quality mental health professionals for school divisions with the greatest needs."

Along with the six school divisions, the network includes the VDOE and the school mental health training programs at UVA, Virginia Tech, Radford University, Old Dominion University, and William and Mary.

It will provide training for currently employed school mental health professions, such as school councilors, psychologists. social workers, and nurses.

These staff members will work to become qualified field supervisors for graduate students completing internships.

The grant also includes financial incentives for between 150 and 200 trainees in the participating university training programs to accept internships and employment in the six specified schools divisions. They will also have the chance to pursue more advanced studies.

Charlottesville, Buckingham County, Staunton and Wayensboro will be working with UVA, while Roanoke will work with Virginia Tech and Radford University and Hampton will work with Old Dominion and William and Mary.

The release says these regional partnerships aim to serve as a model for efforts to improve mental health services in schools across Virginia.

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