August 22, 2022 11:08 AM
Watch the full webinar above
Funding for school-based mental programs can be complicated and arduous. But the youth mental health crisis is at a tipping point and the need for these services are more important now than ever. Youth mental health has become a national priority and there are consistently new sources of funding being made available. School districts must take advantage of this unprecedented opportunity to develop and enhance their student mental health supports.
Daybreak Health hosted a webinar with three district experts who broke down where to start, best practices, and how to build a case for new mental health program funding. Here are 3 key takeaways:
1. Reframe Traditional Ways of Thinking About Funding
Hearing a Superintendent’s point of view on funding new student mental health programs was insightful. Dr. Hani Youssef, Ed.D., District Superintendent at Simi Valley Unified School District, posed a question to district leaders who are feeling hesitant about spending one-time funds, “If not now, when?” He challenged school districts to re-evaluate current practices and strategies for using temporary funding. Historically, districts have shied away from using one-time funds on programming or resources that are not sustainable. But, he encouraged districts to push back on that antiquated model and way of thinking and be more opportunistic with the funding sources that are available now.
Students and families need this support today. Mental health care is inaccessible and unaffordable and they are looking to schools for help. He suggested asking yourself, “What do we have currently in place that is meeting the needs of our students?” Self-reflection and hard conversations need to happen to get these students the services they need. Dr. Youssef said, “There’s no playbook or blueprint for this but we are here now for today’s students. Our students need the support now, not later.” He urged districts to leverage the funding that is available and advised that this won’t be the last mental health funding that will be provided to districts in the future.
2. Best Practices for Applying for Grants
Melissa Rubio, SEL/PBIS Consultant for K-12 Districts in California and former Director of Student Services at Upland Unified, shared useful best practices to consider when applying for grants. Once a district identifies which grants would be applicable for your needs, you must create executive-level buy-in. In order to do this, it is critical to show what you are already doing to respond to students' mental health needs and the infrastructure you have built to support that. The grantors want to know that your district is committed to solving these needs and gaps in student mental health care.
It’s essential to create a cross-functional team for grant writing and identify who is going to oversee the grant writing application, contracting, student services, billing, record keeping, and auditing. Any silos that exist should be broken down to allow for successful collaboration. Once you have your core team in place, you can review the deadlines and rubrics for grant applications.
Another key input to getting cabinet approvals is creating an advisory group of teachers, parents, students, and other community partners. Universal screeners and surveys are a great way to hear from students and a working team of parents and teachers shows that you are collecting important information from the frontlines.
3. Building a Strong Case for New Programs
Jada Jackson, Ed.D., Student Services Coordinator at Antelope Valley Union High School District, stressed the importance of leveraging both quantitative and qualitative data to build a case for more mental health funding and resources. She recommends creating a compelling one-pager with the following information to prove where there are gaps in services:
Here’s an example that Jada shared based on the ASCA’s time analysis template.
This intentional data collection helps to make the case for additional needs and services within the MTSS framework.
The one-page brief should also include:
When you present your plan to district leadership, make sure to think ahead of common objections (funding, efficiency/use of existing resources, sustainability) and be prepared with responses. Jada shared that if a program is working, and you can show that it is having an impact, the district will find funding for it.
As Hani said, always ask yourself this fundamental question, “Is it good for the kids?” When it comes to providing more mental health support, the answer is almost always “yes.”