Grant will serve students with behavioral issues
An unexpected grant from the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County has allowed the Westerville City School District to nearly double the amount of mental health workers serving students with severe behavioral and emotional issues.
The board awarded the district a $300,000 annual grant, which was used to hire two full-time and one part-time mental-health workers through Concord Counseling, said Barbara Wallace, the district's executive director of pupil services.
That adds to the one and a half mental-health workers the district already had, Wallace said.
With that, the district added a part-time person at the high-school level, one person full-time at Heritage Middle School and one full-time person to serve at three locations for the elementary-school level, Wallace said.
With the additional help, the district was able to expand services to bring six students back to the district, Wallace said. Without the additional mental-health workers, those students had to be served at programs outside the district.
While the numbers sound modest, Wallace said, the grant has a big impact for families who would have had to traveled outside the community, away from siblings and peers, for services.
"Westerville tries to serve all of their students in district," Wallace said. "When we send families out, we know they get disenfranchised."
And keeping students in-house also allows the district to control the quality of programming for students, Wallace said.
"We can control the rigor of our academics," she said.
Westerville was one of nine districts to receive a total of $1.3 million in grants from the ADAMH board, said board spokeswoman Aimee Shadwick.
Shadwick said in reviewing its funds, the agency board realized that it had additional money available and approached schools and community groups to see how the money could be put to use.
"Whenever we know there will be some additional funding, we look for where there are needs in the community and we look at how we can invest in that," Shadwick said.
The need for money in schools was a theme board representatives heard over and over again throughout the central Ohio community, she said.
"One of the things we always hear the most about is providing prevention and early intervention services to youth across the entire county. That was a reoccurring theme we heard from people and the importance of investing in young people in our community," she said.
"In addition to what we are doing with these investments in schools, we are investing in some summer camp programs, and we did some things in completely different treatment areas."
The district's longstanding partnership with Concord Counseling made the process even easier, Wallace said, as Concord Counseling completed all of the grant paperwork needed to receive the funds.
In underscoring the importance of such programs, Wallace highlighted the story of one Westerville family.
That family believed their son's behavioral issues were so severe that they could not be dealt with in a typical school.
The district's team convinced the family to enroll him in a program, and they have been thrilled with the results, Wallace said.
"He's actually participating out some hours in the (school's) general population," she said. And it's in Westerville, so he's with his brothers and sisters."