MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WSMV) – One in ten children in the state of Tennessee has been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, and the state Commission on Children and Youth said those numbers have continued to trend in the wrong direction.
To combat this, every school district in the state made a spending plan that will target mental health resources, and the districts will have millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan to do so.
Middle Tennessee schools plan to spend more than $23 million through 2024.
“Our obligation continues to be if we care for the whole child,” said Dr. Trey Duke, Director of Schools for Murfreesboro City Schools. “And that’s behavioral, social (and) emotional”
That said, while they have historically funded mental health programs, federal dollars, in the wake of the pandemic, have provided a big boost.
“Really what these federal dollars have done is allow us to continue that, to grow those programs, especially by adding more school counselors and social workers,” Duke said.
Some of the biggest spenders include the following:
- Metro Nashville Schools at $9.2 million
- Sumner County Schools with $3 million
- Rutherford County Schools with $1.4 million
- Clarksville-Montgomery Schools at $1.6 million
- Murfreesboro City Schools with $1.4 million
“Our goal in the next five years is to have full-time mental health doctors and therapists in every school 5 days a week,” Duke said. “And we know that when that money goes away, we have other funds to subsidize it.”
Duke said with the new funding coming from Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA), they hope to have excess funds to use to address needs they didn’t have before.
“With our school counselors right now we’re at a ratio of just under one to 500 which is something we want to maintain,” Duke said. “Ultimately, we’d like to grow it even more.”
Duke specifically mentioned that they were in the ratio of 498 to one and that the national recommendation is 250 to one.
“We’re planning now,” Duke said. “We know this has to continue. It’s the right thing to do for kids and we’re going to get on with it.”
Schools have said they measure success by looking at statistics about office discipline referrals, school counselor recommendations, in- and out-of-school suspensions, visits to their contracted Centerstone and Stars in-school mental health resources, and academic achievement. .
The message the schools have been trying to send to parents is that early intervention matters.
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