New initiative will provide Ohio teachers with mental health crisis training

Gov. DeWine grants $5M to Miami University for program already in 70 schools statewide.

Mental health challenges for K-12 students in Ohio schools — and in schools nationwide — were on the rise well before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020.

Since then, say education officials, the mental health needs of students across the state have only deepened.

In recent years Miami University has focused more resources on training its student programs for future educators and school counselors to better address these crucial needs and they said this week a $5 million state grant is a big boost for their efforts.

It’s a priority of the Ohio governor, who praised Miami’s programs as having statewide impact on teachers, counselors and administrators throughout the state’s K-12 schools.

The university has been awarded $5 million through a partnership between Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to prioritize mental health and wellness for K-12 students and staff across the state.

Miami officials released a statement saying the grant will allow Miami to transform the Center for School-Based Mental Health Programs into a new School-Based Center of Excellence (SBCOE) for Prevention and Early Intervention to address an ongoing mental health crisis.

“By partnering to create this new School-Based Center of Excellence for Prevention and Intervention, where teachers and administrators can learn to implement prevention and intervention practices in their classrooms and schools, we are demonstrating that good mental health is just essential to physical wellbeing and academic success,” said Governor Mike DeWine.

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“This Center For Excellence will help compliment the Student Wellness and Success Funds, staff trainings, and prevention curriculum resources already received,” said DeWine.

Currently, no other school-based center of excellence exists in Ohio, and the funds provided by OhioMHAS and ODE will be used to facilitate a statewide SBCOE launch during the biennium budget cycle running from August 1, 2022 through June 30, 2024.

The Miami program has already been installed in 70 schools across Ohio.

Miami officials said the SBCOE will act as a hub to house a host of current and ongoing school-based mental health initiatives, statewide projects, and multi-year projects including the Ohio School Wellness Initiative (OSWI), which recently completed a 21-month plan to establish best practice standards for student assistance programs and staff wellness frameworks.

“Even before COVID, mental health issues have skyrocketed,” said Miami University SBCOE Director Cricket Meehan. “Social isolation, anxiety, and depression are impacting classrooms and schools at a much higher level than ever before.”

“All of us play a role in mitigating those concerns, and that’s a big part of the School-Based Center of Excellence. We will help to identify what each and every person’s role is, ensure that they have the supports and the tools they need, and that collaborative partnerships are working together harmoniously,” said Meehan.

Lori Criss, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said “creating strong behavioral health supports in our schools so that teachers can teach, kids can learn, and parents can worry less is an important part of the governor’s commitment to the health and well-being of children everywhere.”

“Catching and treating mental health problems and addiction at their earliest onset can lessen the chances of life-long challenges, and the collaborative, best-practice prevention work that Miami University is leading will benefit children, families, and schools in communities across our state.”

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