NORTH RIDGEVILLE, Ohio — Northeast Ohio students are getting a much needed emotional wellness boost as schools receive funding to meet their mental health needs.
The Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery Services (MHARS) Board of Lorain county have provided grants to four school districts, which including Avon Lake City Schools, Clearview Local Schools, North Ridgeville City Schools and Wellington Exempted Village Schools.
The grant focuses on prevention programming and overall climate inside schools. Some initiatives aim to help curb bullying, violence and implement trauma-informed care. Funding for the grant came from the state came in November, but then came the pandemic.
"We did back off almost a year because they weren't ready,” said Elaine Georgas, Interim Executive Director for the MHARS Board of Lorain County.
Not to mention, schools already overwhelmed with overhauling the way their students learned were now faced with completing self-assessments of their students' needs
"At first they were like, oh another assessment to the kids, another assessment to the parents, they were assessed out, especially with covid,” said Tonya Birney, Dissemination and Implementation Officer-Prevention Services for the MHRAS Board of Lorain County.
But now the group is ready.
The MHARS board has been reaching out to see who wants a piece of its $433,000 piece. We’re told Clearview, Wellington, North Ridgeville and Avon lake received the first grants. This week, Firelands Local School, Oberlin City Schools and Avon Local Schools will receive grant money as well.
Each school made unique plans to its students’ needs. At Avon Lake city schools, that meant creating a student-led prevention group to give kids the confidence and power to speak up, which the district says it currently does with those in younger grades.
"It was actually a very, very easy process. The board made it very simple. Some of them have been as simple as, Mr. Scott, we need downtime,” said Avon Lake City Schools Superintendent Bob Scott. “All they really want is just a time where they can sit and not worry."
Scott says they also recruited adults beyond the overworked counseling staff to oversee a check and connect program.
"As we identify kids that need contact every day, we can give them that contact and make sure they're ok and just check in with them and see how they're doing."
Each school's plan is a step toward helping peel back the surface of education and allowing schools allowing staff to focus on a child's actual well-being.
“We need to be able to teach them, not only academics but teach them how to connect and how to talk and how to relate and how to be attuned into their emotions,” said Birney.
However, Birney and Georgas say funding is running low. They’re hoping other organizations will the importance of mental health resources in schools and make their own contributions.