Schools hiring hundreds of mental health staffers
LANSING » Schools across Michigan are recruiting 562 mental and physical health professionals, the governor announced this week as experts said the increase is needed after years of understaffing and overburdening schools.
The effort to bolster the number of counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses in schools is being funded by the $17.1 billion state K-12 budget Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed last summer. It included a $240 million allocation to hire staff to support students as they grapple with mental and physical health needs that were highlighted and exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic reminded us that schoolbased mental and physical health professionals are not luxuries,” Whitmer said in a news release. “Healthy students — physically, mentally, and social-emotionally — are better learners.”
School districts have until March 1 to hire staff to be eligible to apply for grants to fully fund positions with state money.
Michigan has been severely lacking in hiring and retaining mental health support staff for the last decade, said Terri Tchorzynski, president of the Michigan School Counselor Association.
Michigan ranked second worst in the U.S. in the 2019-2020 school year in its student-to-school-counselor ratio at 671-to-1, according to the American School Counselor Association, which recommends a 250-to-1 ratio.