Local schools hope mental health grant can help address the issue

ONALASKA, Wis. (WEAU) -- This week, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction announced more than $3 million were awarded to 64 districts around the state as part of a mental health grant.

"I think mental health is a significant issue and I think it's been increasing over the years just due to the excessive demands placed on the kids," said Stein Counseling Owner Ted Stein.

The Onalaska School District was one of the districts to receive a grant, getting $58,860.

The school district says it will use the grant in three different parts.

"It has a part where it's a multi-tiered kind of intervention with students who have mental health issues, from the basic awareness of how to cope with things at that level," said Onalaska School District Superintendent Fran Finco.

The other two parts include professional development for staff and partnering with local mental health providers.

For the past six years, the Onalaska school district has partnered with Stein Counseling to work with their students.

"I think education first is the key. You know educating professionals and educators alike on the stress and how kids respond to stress," said Stein.

With the grant, and new positions in the district, Finco says they can now help more kids and faster.

"Our family school liaison person that we just hired, they will make notes of kids and they will try and meet with those kids as soon as they can in the fall. In the past it has been into October, sometimes November, before they can circle around and get to everyone of the kids. With this new grant, it will provide more training for more people and more services," said Finco.

La Crosse, Altoona, Chippewa Falls and the Trempealeau Valley also received mental health service grants from the DPI.

Tuesday, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel announced plans to use part of $45 million in grant money for mental health purposes.

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