County invests $2.1 million to expand student access to mental health resources

By Cristina Mendez

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ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Howard County will use $2.1 million to expand mental health services in its public school system, which educates a total of nearly 58,000 students.

At a Wednesday press conference at Patapsco Middle School in Ellicott City, County Superintendent Calvin Ball said the funding will fill a void for children and families who have historically struggled to access health resources. mental.

“Everyone deserves the same access to mental health care,” Ball said.

Of this funding, $1.7 million will go to the school mental health program over the next two years. Among other things, the program aims to make social workers available in the county’s 77 public schools to increase access.

The program is being paid for with $98,000 in US bailout funding as well as contributions from the Horizon Foundation and the Kahlert Foundation, two local nonprofits.

A separate expansion is underway into the “HoCo STRIVES Mental Health Initiatives” program. Ball earmarked $380,000 in his fiscal year 2023 budget proposal for this purpose.

STRIVES brings together multiple partners to help Howard County children succeed in school. The program’s duties will now expand into the area of ​​mental health resources, which include targeted case management, transportation, parent coaching, support for underinsured or uninsured families, and critical care.

“We are helping to reduce the stigma of mental health treatment, standardize the process of receiving multiple support systems, and ensure students have the readily available access they need to maximize their academic success,” said the superintendent, Dr. Michael Martirano.

A 2021 survey by the Maryland Department of Health found that 36% of high school students felt sad or hopeless every day for two consecutive weeks.

The study also found that one in five students, or 20%, had considered suicide at some point in the previous year. This rate was disproportionately higher among black students (37%) and LGBTQ students (57%).

“For anyone in our community who is struggling, please know that you are not alone. It’s okay to ask for help,” Ball said.

If you are in a crisis or know someone who is, please contact the Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center 24/7 by dialing 410-531-6677 or texting “HOME” to 741741.

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