South Bend Community School Corp. will benefit from a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will go toward training for mental health workers.
The Addressing Regional School Psychologist Shortages program through the Indiana University Office of School Partnerships will support three school districts to start: Kokomo School Corp., Richmond Community Schools and South Bend Community School Corp. More districts will be added during the five-year grant period.
The project's mission is to help prepare a highly skilled pipeline of licensed school psychologists who will provide services to students in districts throughout Indiana.
“There are school districts in Indiana that haven’t had a direct-hire school psychologist in nearly a decade because of the severe shortage of professionals,” said Leah Nellis, professor of education at IU Kokomo and senior adviser to IU regional campus K-12 initiatives, in a press release. “So much of mental health care is relationships, and when you are only able to offer part-time or virtual services, there’s really no opportunity to build those relationships and community.”
The new IU Office of Collaborative Academic Programs’ Ed.S. in School Psychology will offer a 65-credit-hour hybrid program that targets working adults. The collaboration between IU East, IU Kokomo, IU South Bend and IU Bloomington is a step between earning a master's degree and doctorate.
“South Bend Community School Corp. believes that this new program will be pivotal in the growth and expansion of services and supports provided to our students,” said Tonia Brewer, the school corporation’s director of exceptional learners. “We are excited to be part of it and hope this will become an example of how focused partnerships geared toward responding to the needs of our students provide access and opportunity for all.”
The grant also will go toward re-opening the IU South Bend Community Counseling Clinic. It had served 100 families at no cost. It sill be staffed by IU South Bend graduate students with the guidance of faculty.
“Seventy percent of kids who need mental health services will receive them in a school setting, making school psychologists critical in ensuring services are available and accessible within that setting,” Nellis said. “All of the districts we’re working with are classified as high need, based on student demographics as well as the number of mental health providers. If we can help these districts really hurting to provide what they need for their kids, we will make a significant difference in our communities and these kids’ futures.”
The grant aligns with the university's 2030 strategic plan, which focuses on three pillars: “student success and opportunity,” “transformative research and creativity,” and “service to our state and beyond.”