Strategies for Student Success 2015 - Page 50

Johnson City Schools Supporting Academics by Supporting Student Mental Health and Safety Needs Sometimes, grant-funded school programming effectively has an expiration date. When temporary funds end, so do the services they paid for. Sometimes. But not always. Eight years ago, SCORE Prize finalist Johnson City Schools (JCS) won a sizable federal grant: $5 million in Safe Schools/Healthy Students funds, received over the course of four years. The grant allowed JCS to establish the HEROES program, a comprehensive set of services designed to meet a wide range of student mental health and safety needs. “We tried to inundate our schools with support,” said JCS’s Greg Wallace, director of the HEROES program. “We essentially established local mental health clinics in all our schools.” JCS’s use of the funds was so successful that the district received a national Voices of Prevention award from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It’s challenging to isolate academic benefits of the program, as many kids receiving services are also enrolled in Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI2), but documented measurable results do include decreases in drug and alcohol use, bullying events, and student absences due to fear. In 2012, the grant ended – but the services didn’t. JCS and community partners decided the HEROES program was too important to lose, collaborating to locate funds necessary to maintain the level of investment initially made possible through the grant. Individualized mental health 49 services have been provided to about 20 percent of JCS’s students. “We’re like everybody. We don’t have a ton of money floating around. But we’ve made it a priority,” said Dr. Wallace. The HEROES story is just one example of how JCS allocates resources to support student well-being. High academic expectations are set for all students in the district, and kids are fully supported in meeting them. From a thoughtful, comprehensive RTI2 program to nutritional services designed to truly meet kids’ needs, JCS has achieved success by caring for every student.