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Evers: DOJ Should Use Remaining Safety Money for School Mental Health

By John Forester | July 24, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

State schools Superintendent Tony Evers says the state Department of Justice should use the remaining $40 million-plus in school safety grant funding to prioritize mental health.

Evers’ comments came at a news conference yesterday at Schenk Elementary School in Madison, where he also unveiled the Department of Public Instruction’s 2019-21 budget request surrounding mental health initiatives.

Under the newly created $100 million school safety grant program, 735 schools and districts requested $56.6 million in total funding. Assuming all the money is allocated as requested, there’ll be some $43.4 million of state funding leftover. DOJ officials have previously said the agency would make a determination about how to use that funding after consulting with School Safety Director Kristen Devitt.

But Evers, who’s also running for guv, stressed the need to use the leftover funding to ensure students can be in “a place mentally and physically where they can learn.”

That means using the funding to implement more statewide training and support for young people, as well as other priorities he highlighted as part of his budget request today.

The budget request includes $5 million in specialized support for school mental health training; an additional $44 million in mental health categorical aid to match district funding when hiring for pupil services staff; and $14 million for expanding collaborative grants with community mental health providers to give students access to mental health services.

In all, Evers’ budget proposal will include more than $60 million over the next biennium for mental health services.

“This is a critical issue,” Evers said of using safety grant funding for mental health initiatives. “The fact that some of it was left behind I think was reflective of the kind of narrowness of the scope (of the grants).”

A state DOJ spokeswoman said that mental health training has been a “cornerstone of DOJ’s grant program from Day 1,” noting that to qualify for the money, school staff will have to have training in trauma-informed care before the end of the 2018-19 school year or show staff have already received such training.

Evers also said the mental health aspect of DPI’s budget request is the first of a handful of recommendations the agency is releasing over the coming weeks. He said he’s planning to submit DPI’s full budget request in September or October.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Coverage here.

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