Michigan Sees Increase in Helping Professionals in Schools | #schoolsaftey

LANSING – As the world celebrated World Mental Health Day this week, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced the addition of over 1,000 helping professionals in schools statewide over the past five years. These helping professionals include counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists.

“Providing these services during the school day leads to early identification and intervention, better access to care, better academic outcomes, a more positive school climate and safety, better psychosocial outcomes, and better engagement with students, families, and educators,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice.

This work directly supports Goal 3 of Michigan’s Strategic Education Plan, to improve the health, safety, and wellness of all learners.

Since 2018, Michigan has made historic investments in supporting student mental health at schools across the state. Ongoing funding investments include $112.8 million in the fiscal year 2024 School Aid Act (Sec. 31n), which has provided funding to intermediate school districts (ISDs) and local school districts, both public school academies and traditional public school districts, since 2019.

Significant one-time investments include $240 million from the School Aid Act (Sec. 31o) in Fiscal Year 2021 to support the additions of school counselors, social workers, nurses, and school psychologists, through September 30, 2024. In addition, School Aid Act (Sec. 31aa) allocated $150 million in Fiscal Year 2023 and $328 million in Fiscal Year 2024 to improve student mental health, and allowable expenses including the hiring or contracting of support staff for student mental health needs. 

“This work is critical for meeting children where they are,” said Dr. Rice. “These helping professionals are essential for contributing to the success of Michigan’s children and their future and support our work to build a comprehensive school-based mental health system statewide.” 

Jill Ball, assistant superintendent for instructional services at Tuscola Intermediate School District (ISD), said: “Our ISD has been able to deploy mental health providers to all of our districts this past year with section 31n funds. These providers have been delivering one-on-one and small group support to students in each of our districts. Our providers have been focused on helping students handle the mental health issues that are prohibiting them from participating in the school community. These include gaining coping skills and strategies, as well as the ability to recognize their needs and advocate for them. We have focused on building an awareness about mental health and breaking the stigma around mental health treatment.” 

While this is encouraging news for public school children across Michigan, there is still a need to address the shortage of behavioral health professionals available in several areas—schools, communities, and health care settings.

“This commitment to ensuring that students receive mental healthcare, in school, is impressive and closes a long-standing gap in care,” said Bob Sheehan, chief executive officer of the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan. “Now, this same level of investment is needed to close the deep mental health workforce shortage that exists in community mental health centers and private provider networks so that they can serve Michigan’s children, youth, and families outside of school and the school day.” 

MDE is partnering with the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, Michigan Health Council, and various professional organizations to build a pipeline of new helping professionals in all sectors.

“This milestone of over 1,000 helping professionals in schools is the result of many people working together to improve access to care,” says Aleysha Czartoszewski, career pathways coordinator at Michigan Health Council. “While this is a great step forward, we are working hard to develop solutions that grow the overall number of mental health professionals in Michigan in partnership with MDE and many different organizations.” 

Of the increase, approximately 59 percent was in social workers, 31 percent in counselors, and the balance in nurses, school psychologists, and behavioral analysts. 

For more information about school behavioral health efforts in Michigan, please visit the School Mental Health Programs website.

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