School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program
The most recent governor’s budget provides funding, beginning in fiscal year 2019, to create a new mental health grant program (Wis. Stat. sec. 115.367). The Department of Public Instruction will award grants to school districts, and operators of independent charter schools, to be used for the purpose of providing mental health services to pupils, in collaboration with community health agencies. Strategies may include co-locating community mental health clinics in schools and providing screening and intervention services. School boards and independent charter schools may apply for a grant individually or as a consortium of school boards, charter schools, or both; also, Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESAs) can be considered a consortium of school boards. Per statute, private schools are not eligible to apply.
This grant opportunity is for all eligible applicants. For applicants just beginning this process, this year of funding may be focused on developing a strong, solid infrastructure and collaboration to provide better access to mental health treatment for all students. For applicants who have some infrastructure in place, this year of funding may support developing better procedures or policies as well as other improvements to their existing system.
Can we hire, as a school employee, a DSPS licensed social workers to work in the school?
You cannot hire a community social worker to come into your school and do the job that a DPI licensed social worker would do. You can hire a community social worker to come into your school and coordinate mental health services across agencies and to support families as long as the non-DPI licensed social worker is not providing direct services to students.
How can we be required to provide treatment for uninsured or under-insured students if we can’t hire a community counselor or social worker or use the grant funds to pay for their treatment?
The purpose of this grant funding is provide grantees with resources to develop a comprehensive and sustainable mental health system for children and youth. Using time-limited grant funds to pay for treatment costs (such as high deductibles) is not sustainable and may leave a child cut off from treatment services once the grant funding is gone.
As funding is provided through statute, grantees are expected to follow all current laws and policies including licensing requirements. As a school/community collaboration, the goal is to work to develop a system of mental health resources that are supported by the school and community.
A number of programs in Wisconsin have addressed this issue. Possible solutions include:
- Finding community partners, foundations, businesses, non-profits, or advocacy agencies that will financially support the students who are underinsured.
- Working with the County Department of Human Services to provide treatment and supports to uninsured students.
- Working with community providers to provide some pro bono services for underinsured or uninsured students.
- Working with community providers or institutions of higher education to provide qualified treatment trainees who are working on their required hours of certification and do not receive payment for their services.
- Provide a mental health navigator or coordinator to families who can help them find and access insurance coverage.