Rochester Public Schools receives grant to support youth mental health

Rochester Public Schools receives grant to support youth mental health.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 9:20 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – An effort to improve youth mental health support in schools is underway. Senator Amy Klobuchar visited Rochester Monday to celebrate a new grant to help Rochester Public Schools (RPS) achieve its goals.

This grant is federal funding for a new partnership between RPS and Winona State University to address student mental health needs. Sen. Klobuchar said she can’t think of a better place for this program.

The initiative will help WSU Master of Social Work graduates get social work careers for RPS, increasing mental health services for students. Klobuchar said currently there aren’t enough mental health professionals in the schools.

“The healing can start in the schools, which is why this program is so important,” Klobuchar said.

This grant stems from the isolation students experienced during the pandemic.

“They just need someone to talk to sometimes, get them back on track, and get some advice from someone,” Klobuchar explained.

The grant will move 30 new social workers into RPS within five years, dropping the students to social worker ratio from 414 to 1, to 377 to 1. RPS superintendent Kent Pekel said the first mission is academics, but they can’t get there if students are struggling.

“When we have schools in which students are equipped to focus on academics and get along, it benefits everybody,” Pekel said.

“Master of social work graduates from WSU will be given scholarships as an extra incentive.

“We have to use structures that allow someone who’s already in another job, might already have a family and needs the financial resources and the time to get the skills that we need in a field like this,” Pekel said.

RPS plans on bringing in six new social workers within the first year of the grant.

“We want to increase our mental health services in this community, and this is a great way to have the masters level paid for while you’re committing you time and resources to supporting the students in our community,” said Koni Grimfrud, Director of Student Services.

Pekel said this grant competition was very competitive and RPS was given the only grant given in Minnesota.

RPS plans on continuing this program after the grant money is gone.