Middle TN schools to receive millions of dollars for mental health.

MURFERESBORO, Tenn. (WSMV) – One in ten children in the state of Tennessee suffer from anxiety or depression, and the state Commission on Children and Youth says those numbers are skewed in the wrong direction.

To combat this, every school district in the state has enacted a spending plan that targets mental health resources, and districts will receive millions of dollars from the Save America Plan to do so.

Middle Tennessee schools plan to spend more than $23 million by 2024.

“Our commitment continues,” said Dr. Trey Duke, director of schools for Murfreesboro City Schools. “That’s behaviorally, socially (and) emotionally.”

Federal dollars that have historically funded mental health programs have seen a big boost since the pandemic, Duke said.

“Really, what these federal dollars have done is allow us to continue that, to grow those programs, especially by adding more school counselors and social workers,” Duke said.

Some of the top spenders include:

  • Metro Nashville schools for $9.2 million
  • 3 million dollars for Sumter County Schools
  • Rutherford County Schools for $1.4 million
  • Clarksville-Montgomery Schools for $1.6 million
  • Murfreesboro City Schools for $1.4 million

“Our goal in the next five years is to have full-time mental health clinicians and therapists in every school, 5 days a week,” Duke said. “And when that money is gone, we know we have other money to support that.”

Duke said they hope the new funds from Tennessee Investment in Student Success (TISA) will have surplus funds to address unmet needs.

“With our school counselors, we’re sitting right now at a ratio of one to 500, which is something we want to keep,” Duke said. “Eventually we want to grow that even further.”

Duke specifically noted that the ratio was 498 to one, and the national recommendation was 250 to one.

“We’re planning now,” Duke said. “We know this has to go on. It’s a real job for kids and we’ll continue.

Schools measure success by looking at office discipline referrals, school counselor referrals, out-of-school suspensions, contracted school mental health resources, Centerstone and STARS, and academic achievement, he said.

The message schools are trying to send to parents is that early intervention matters.

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