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Ohio budget boosts funding to address student mental health

Posted at 5:18 PM, Aug 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-01 17:55:59-04

CLEVELAND — As we flip the calendar from July to August, we're creeping even closer to the start of another school year.

Returning to class is always a struggle for students, but this fall, an influx of funding may make learning a little easier.

Keeping children focused in class is a bit more challenging these days.

"We do know a lot of our kids within Cuyahoga County and other surrounding counties are coming to school with a lot of issues," said Dr. Dakota King-White.

Poverty, homelessness and violence are taking a toll on little learners, according to Cleveland State University's Assistant Professor of Counseling Dr. Dakota King-White.

"We know if kids are coming to school with a lot of traumatic experiences, that it's going to make it extremely hard for them to function academically," said King-White.

The new Ohio budget allocates $675 million to establish a Student Wellness Success fund.

“I'm very excited to hear that the state has set the money aside to address the non-academic issues," said King-White.

The funding is expected to arm school districts with more tools to better address the mental health issues that often stand in the way of academic success.

"Trauma and toxic stress can effect memory skills, reasoning skills," said Bill Stencil, Cleveland Metropolitan School District Social Emotional Learning.

Before the budget passed, CMSD was already set to roll out similar wrap-around services in 16 of its schools.

"They're very excited for it to happen for this fall," said Stencil.

The funding comes from the "Say Yes" program that addresses social and emotional needs of students, "which is going to include a family support specialist which is going to be a conduit between the community resources and the schools," said Stencil.

CMSD will add a specialist and that critical counseling each year until they’re in all 105 schools.

“They don't have a buffer, someone to talk to about these kinds of issues," said Stencil.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine says by addressing these barriers to success, the state can give all students the opportunity for a brighter future.

"Those things will be able to help kids thrive academically, socially and emotionally," said King-White.

King-White told News 5 that she would like to see some of this money used to fund additional school counselors and mental health therapists.

She also added that there's also a need for more professional development so teachers are better equipped to tackle social-emotional learning.