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Senator McConnell helps secure funding for McCreary County School District
Stearns – McCreary County School District has been awarded a Mental Health Service Professionals Demonstration (MHSP) grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund AUGMENT (Advancing University partnerships to include Graduate students in Mental health to Expand our capacity and the Number of Trained providers), a program to increase the number of mental health professionals serving the district’s 2,736 students across its four schools. McCreary County School District received $1.2 million to implement AUGMENT’s first year and is anticipated to receive $1.2 million for each of the four remaining years, a total of $6 million.
Through AUGMENT, McCreary County School District will develop, recruit, and retain more licensed social workers, mental health counselors, and psychologists to provide mental health services to students. Within the first three months of the program, beginning in April 2023, the district will hire three qualified mental health providers and a Coordinator who will serve students while also functioning as on-site infrastructure to supervise graduate students from University of the Cumberlands and Eastern Kentucky University. Ms. Rebecca Blakely, current Director of Districtwide Services, will lead the project and serve as the full-time Project Director. Eight graduate students will be placed within McCreary County schools and trained each year, for a total of 40 over the five-year period. McCreary County School District will also create a CTE pathway to train current high school students for future careers in Counseling and Mental Health Services. To help retain new and current mental health service providers, AUGMENT will offer paid supervision, stipends, and professional learning in best practices and evidence-based programs.
In addition to decreasing provider-to-student ratios and increasing students’ access to mental health services, AUGMENT is expected to result in improved behavioral coping mechanisms for students; fewer discipline referrals; improved student academic achievement; fewer instances of suicide and suicide ideation amongst students; and decreased numbers of students requiring targeted and/or intensive interventions.
“This grant will benefit hundreds of children across our district and we are thankful for the needed resources,” reported Interim Superintendent, Mr. Larry Hammond.
Senator Mitch McConnell, who advocated in support of the competitive federal grant for the McCreary County School District, said: “Every child in Kentucky deserves a quality education and the tools to succeed. Unfortunately, our country’s growing mental health crisis is making that harder for young people, both in and out of the classroom. The McCreary County School District is taking the right approach by prioritizing mental health in its schools. I was proud to help secure this competitive federal funding by contacting the U.S. Department of Education Secretary on their behalf. This investment will bring critical mental health resources to schools in the Commonwealth, and help improve the lives of Kentucky’s next generation.”
McCreary County School District is grateful for the help of Senator McConnell. The district is also thankful for its partnerships with the University of the Cumberlands, Eastern Kentucky University, Applied Behavioral Advancements, Adanta, Baptist Health, Champions UNITE, Kentucky School Counselor Association, Phoenix Preferred Care, and Somerset Mental Health, for initiating, implementing, and guiding AUGMENT.