Bloomsburg, a Commonwealth University
McDowell Institute Awarded Nearly $4 Million to Support Student Mental Health
Bloomsburg, PA (02/28/2023) — Student mental health programs in central Pennsylvania are getting a boost from the McDowell Institute at Commonwealth University-Bloomsburg. The institute has been awarded three grants totaling almost $4 million to fund programs to support student mental health across schools and communities in the five-county region covered by the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (CSIU) and the Susquehanna Valley United Way.
"We're incredibly grateful for these grants," said Danielle Empson-Schultz, director of the McDowell Institute. "Receiving a grant, such as these, let alone three, adds a sense of acknowledgement to the planning and commitment of this region to address the mental health needs of our students."
The first of the three grants was awarded last summer to the Susquehanna United Way; the McDowell Institute will participate as a key partner alongside the CSIU in a two-year project. This state-level grant will focus on supporting students' mental health in rural central Pennsylvania through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD).
One aspect of the project will involve the implementation of mental health training to individuals throughout the region's communities and school districts. These trainings are intended to increase the mental health literacy of individuals who interact with school-aged youth to understand and detect the signs and symptoms of mental illness.
"This is what makes this project so unique," Empson-Schultz said. "The emphasis is not only on supporting those currently in the field but also on workforce development, increasing opportunities for those interested in school-based mental health to have earlier experiences such as internships and field experiences."
In December, two more grants were awarded involving the Institute: The Mental Health Awareness Partnership (MHAP) and the Project AWARE Improving Mental Health Practices Across Communities Together (IMPACT) grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Similarly, to the PCCD grant, the MHAP will allow the institute to work on building a network of credentialed suicide prevention trainers in the community. "The goal is for those who become credentialed trainers to provide training to educators and others who support children, youth and adolescents," Empson-Schultz said. "Those community members will then be better equipped to identify warning signs and encourage appropriate professional help to the youth they interact with."
The Project AWARE grant is the largest of the three grants. The four-year project will involve the collaboration of the institute, Geisinger's Pediatric Psychiatry Department, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services-Children's Division. One goal of this program is to create a bridge program within Geisinger that would allow youth and teens who have the most serious need for mental health services to receive targeted and/or intensive services earlier.
All three projects have similar goals and work to address immediate needs in the surrounding communities. "We hope that with these grants, the regions districts and communities will feel better supported in helping address the behavioral health needs of their students," Empson-Shultz said.
The McDowell Institute's mission is to support the facilitation of social, emotional, and behavioral wellness of children, youth, and young adults across school and community settings through training, technical assistance, and information dissemination.