$2.3 million awarded to fill gaps in youth mental health care in Washtenaw County

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The following was issued by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and Washtenaw County Community Mental Health:

Washtenaw County, Dec. 20, 2022 – Washtenaw County’s Public Safety and Mental Health Preservation Millage Advisory Committee has awarded $2.3 million over three years to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) to fill gaps in youth mental health programming. The grant will give schools and parents additional support to respond to unmet youth mental health needs.

“We’ve seen such an increase in the mental health needs of students,” said Shannon Novara, WISD program manager for community and school partnerships. 

“Younger people aren’t always aware of resources, so they look to adults to support them, especially adults they find in school every day. We want to make sure that we’re appropriately leveraging the resources that are available in this county because it’s going to take everyone pulling together to support our young people.”

An evaluation of Washtenaw County’s youth mental health needs and the services available in our community identified a number of service gaps. The $2.3 million millage grant will help fill those gaps by providing WISD with the resources needed to respond to the youth mental health crisis along three tiers:universal prevention, early prevention, and referral and crisis services.

Tier 1. Universal prevention
• Offer 12 Youth Mental Health First Aid training courses over the next three years, training
approximately 240 school staff and community members;

• Launch a new mindfulness training curriculum–Learning 2 Breathe–for 41 teachers to
implement in classrooms over three years;

• Host a book study program for school staff to discuss equity-centered, trauma-informed
education;

• Combat stigma for families through a public campaign, helping them identify signs and
 symptoms of mental health needs, ways to support their children, and school- and community- based resources; and

• Develop a parallel system of support to provide substance use disorder prevention, early
intervention, and crisis response, and connect students and parents with resources. 

Tier 2. Early prevention
• Develop an approach to identify students who use substances and connect them to care;

• Facilitate Mom Power, a program that engages mothers of young children facing adversity and
stress and provides skills to meet the child’s social-emotional needs;

• Coordinate Handle with Care, an initiative that notifies schools when a student has witnessed or experienced a potentially traumatic event;

• Contract with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to redesign the
Education Project for Homeless Youth to help at-risk children get connected to care through an
embedded prevention worker; and

• Continue to support school-based social workers for regular education students through millage matching dollars.

Tier 3. Referral and crisis services
• Hire a new staff member embedded in WISD to help bridge care gaps between WISD and
WCCMH; and

• Coordinate with hospitals, primary care physicians, social workers, and other partners to expand student support services throughout the community.

For three years, Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (WCCMH) and the Washtenaw
Intermediate School District have worked together to provide school-based adolescent mental health services using state and millage funding. The millage has also provided funding for youth mental health programming to community partners, including Corner Health Center, the National Alliance on Mental Illness - Washtenaw County, the National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice, Ozone House, Washtenaw County Health Department, Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, and Ypsilanti Community Schools.

About the Public Safety and Mental Health Preservation Millage: Resources from Washtenaw County's Public Safety and Mental Health Preservation Millage first became available in January of 2019 and will continue to be available until 2024. If the millage is renewed by voters in the fall of 2024, these funds and the programs and services they make possible will continue.

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