DES MOINES – Today, the Office of Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs) announced that training for teachers and other school staff has started this summer thanks to the new $2.1 million appropriation for addressing children’s mental health needs in schools.
“We are investing in a coordinated, comprehensive children’s mental health care system,” said Gov. Reynolds. “Our investment will help train teachers to better recognize early signs of mental illness and promote early intervention. This is an important step to better support our educators working with students, and families struggling with mental illness.”
“This funding presents an opportunity to begin addressing one of the biggest areas of concern continually raised by educators,” said Tom Lane, Executive Director of Iowa’s AEAs. “This allocation will ensure educators have access to a detailed framework of universal support to build upon.”
The state funding will provide extensive professional development including Youth Mental Health First Aid training for more educators across Iowa. Youth Mental Health First Aid is a nationally recognized curriculum that teaches about risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems, and promotes early intervention to support students who need assistance.
The state appropriation also provides some funding for each AEA to use in a way that best taps available resources in communities or addresses gaps specific to their area of the state. Six southwest Iowa school districts, for example, will be able to share three new social workers to support students and families thanks to a combination of funding from the $2.1 million mental health appropriation and the state’s operational sharing program. In addition, the AEAs will expand an existing online clearinghouse of resources for mental health support and will share success stories in school districts across the state to encourage best practices.
“We are deliberately applying these funds differently to meet the needs of Iowa’s school districts, and we’ll use the collective data to continue improving supports available for students. That single outcome – better mental health supports for students – is the primary goal, and we’re pleased to be forging ahead on this challenging path,” Lane concluded.
This funding appropriation is not the first time the AEAs have been tapped to help with the challenge of supporting mental wellness for students. During the 2018 legislative session, a new requirement was put in place to require a one-hour, annual training for all educators in suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. The AEA system developed AEA Learning Online Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Postvention Training in response to that requirement.