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Michigan schools look to tap state funds for new mental health staff

The deadline for districts to apply is March 1, 2022.

MICHIGAN, USA — The 2022 school year will mark the first time in decades Michigan schools are getting equal funding per student. Thanks to federal COVID relief funding, the fiscal year 2022 school aid budget has education lawmakers saying it's the first time in their lifetime the mental health of students is being appropriately addressed.

"We have not invested in mental health as a state for years and years and years," said Diane Golzynski, Director of the Office of Health and Nutrition Services with Michigan Department of Education. "In fact [2018] is the first time in my lifetime I can remember truly investing in mental health."

RELATED: School funding equality 27 years in the making: Gov. Whitmer approves School Aid Budget

In addition to the equal funding announced with the signing of the education budget in July, the budget also created a $240 million grant for schools to hire new support staff for physical and mental health. 

Specifically, over a three-year period, the state will cover the cost for school districts to hire School Counselors, Psychologists, nurses, and social workers.

"This additional funding is about investing in the students' mental health," Golzynski said, "So they can be the best students they can to learn from the education that’s provided." 

The money will be prorated over the three-year period, starting with $120 million available for 2022, $80 million for 2023, and $40 Million for 2024. The application deadline for schools to apply is March 1, 2022.

In order to receive funding, schools have to retain the positions after the state funding runs out, making the investment into students' mental and physical health viable for the future.

So far, 226 schools have applied across the state, requesting roughly $65 million for 2022. 

Some schools are only asking for enough to cover a part-time salary at one position, while others, like Zeeland and Lansing public schools, have each asked for multiple new hires at multiple positions, requesting $3.7 and $2.8 million respectively.

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