Miami’s new $6 million program to give mental health aid to schools for struggling students

A new Miami University program funded by $6 million from the state will soon be helping all Ohio K-12 schools as they deal with student mental health problems brought on by the coronavirus.

The program, which begins this month, is the first of its kind and a cooperative effort between Miami University’s Center for School-Based Health programs and the Ohio Mental Health Network for School Success.

The $6 million is coming from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund created to help mitigate some of the mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic and all its impacts on K-12 schools.

“One of the most important things about his project,” said Cricket Meehan, director of Miami’s Center for School-Based Health, “is it will bring comprehensive mental health support for our students.”

Since the onset of the coronavirus last March, there has been a sharp rise in the needs of students in dealing with the emotional toll of the pandemic, according to school counselors.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that mental health-related emergency room visits nationwide increased 31 percent for children age 12-17 and 24 percent for children age 5-11 from March 2020 to October 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

To address this need, said Miami officials, Meehan’s team was selected by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to develop a 21-month plan.

The plan will begin this month. Meehan said the new program will also aid school counselors.

School counselors have been under extraordinary stress in striving to help students and school families as they deal with the pandemic and often the major changes – including remote learning – brought on by coronavirus.

“We’re also going to focus on school staff wellness because if they are mentally well, they will be able to help their students,” she said.

Meehan said Miami’s center - with its legacy of statewide work and resources — “will serve as the hub of the project, bringing hundreds of people from across the state together to address this significant school mental health crisis.”

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