Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker announced the release of $15 million in funding for 72 school districts across Connecticut to support the hiring and retention of school mental health specialists for the 2024, 2025, and 2026 school years.
The grants for each district range from $25,150 to $120,000 in each of the first two years and 70% of that amount in the third year. The competitive grant program is utilizing funding the state received from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
“Every child deserves essential support for behavioral health services, and through the release of these grants we are able to assist more school districts in hiring mental health workers,” Governor Lamont said. “Making these resources available in schools is a way we can easily and directly connect children and teens with the support they require.”
“The Connecticut State Department of Education is excited to unveil the new School Mental Health Specialists Grant program, which prioritizes our students’ well-being – a foundational element to student success,” Commissioner Russell-Tucker said. “This funding will enable schools to hire dedicated school mental health professionals, ensuring students have the vital support they need. With this investment we are building a safer, nurturing environment where students can excel academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. Together, let’s forge a stronger, healthier future.”
Of course, not everyone agrees on expanding school-based mental health services, especially in light of concerns over privacy, ethics, and piling more things onto educators. The fact that Connecticut children can see a mental health specialist for an unlimited number of sessions without parental consent, thanks to a revision to state law that took effect on July 1, 2021, is also troubling to some parents.
Robert Pondiscio, a senior fellow focused on education at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank said, “No one is suggesting schools should not be concerned about kids’ overall well-being. But is this the proper place in civil society for mental health services to reside?”
One parent concerned about the move to expand mental health services in school said, "The Connecticut government worsened children's mental health with unscientific mask and social distancing mandates. They bullied kids into taking dangerous covid vaccines. They mandated social emotional learning based on racist theories that make kids feel bad about the color of their skin. And don't get me started on all of the sexually-explicit books in the library. All of these things have exacerbated kids' mental health. So why would anyone think that the very people who have created so many mental health problems for kids would actually have any idea how to fix them?"