Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman announces $40 million in federal funds for Kentucky school mental-health services

Published 12:30 pm Thursday, June 1, 2023

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Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman announced $40 million in federal funding is coming to Kentucky schools to support and expand access to school-based mental health services, Tom Latek reports for Kentucky Today.

Coleman said this is important because “Students are six times more likely to access mental-health services when they are offered in schools.”

Coleman was speaking May 30 in the Capitol rotunda, where she and and other advocates gave an update on the student mental-health initiative that she began nearly two years ago.

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Coleman said the plan is for regional educational cooperatives, comprising school districts, to give the money to “major universities” in their area to be used to recruit, train and educate mental health professionals for grade school children in each region, Munashe Kwangwari reports for WLKY.

“We are building the workforce while providing services to the kids who do not have access right now,” Coleman said, adding that the issue remains important in Kentucky and across the rest of the nation. She pointed to several studies to back up this claim, Latek reports, quoting her at length:

“A Pew Research internet poll reported earlier this year, 40% of U.S. parents of children under 18 say they are extremely or very worried that their children may struggle with anxiety or depression, while 36% indicated they were somewhat worried about this,” Coleman said.

She also quoted from a 2021 Kentucky Incentives for Participation program survey: “Twenty-two percent of the students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12, reported serious psychological distress in the past 30 days. In a 2021 Kentucky Youth Behavior Risk survey, 9.8% of Kentucky middle school students, and 9.5% of Kentucky high school students attempted suicide, over the previous 12 months.”

The issue of youth mental health is so prevalent that U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a public-health advisory in December 2021 that said there is an urgent need to address a mental-health crisis among the nation’s youth. In may, he issued another advisory drawing attention to the dangers of social-media use to children’s mental health.

Coleman also noted that all three branches of state government have put forth initiatives to prioritize student mental health, including a three-day mental health summit held by the Kentucky Supreme Court this week, Latek reports.

Coleman added, “Now is the time to act. It is incumbent upon all of us to work together on this critically important issue, the number one issue here and across the country. This isn’t about right or left, it’s about doing what’s right, to make sure no student gets left behind.”