The Arizona Department of Education is using a portion of its state aid to help more students access the mental health care they need.
PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Education uses some state aid to fund school counselor and social worker positions in school districts across the state.
The aim is to give more students access to the mental health care they need after the pandemic.
The money will be used to finance 140 new jobs at the Arizona locations
Arizona public education superintendent Kathy Hoffman announced Monday that the state is allocating $ 21.3 million to fund mental health workers in public schools.
This money comes from the Arizona Department of Education’s COVID relief funds.
Funding will help expand the ADE School Safety Grant program, which has helped bring counselors, social workers and school officials onto school grounds.
The $ 21.3 million will fund 140 new jobs in locations across the state.
71 of these positions are for school counselors, the other 69 for school social workers.
“I keep hearing from our students that they need, not just want, but need more school counselors and mental health professionals on school premises to support their needs,” said Hoffman.
The money will support the positions for the next two years, and then Hoffman said they will ask Arizona state law to fund the positions in full after that.
Students say they need additional mental health help
Claire Novak, senior high school, says it has been difficult for her and her colleagues to be a high school student amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I definitely think some of my classmates have lost their meaning in the process of distance learning,” said Novak.
Novak, who attends Arizona School for the Arts, said her colleagues and those she worked with in middle school were grateful to be back in face-to-face classes.
Students had concerns such as food insecurity, how the pandemic has affected students’ families and the safety of their families and peers.
Novak said these worries persist to this day.
“I am also concerned about the ongoing impact of this pandemic on our students,” Novak said.
Novak added that she believes the additional positions will help her colleagues.
“Our teachers and fellow students have offered so much support to the students, but they need additional support from professionals like counselors and social workers,” Novak said
Positions to start next school year
Hoffman said the goal is to fill the positions by the 2021-2022 school year.
Kyrene Elementary School District is a district that will get a few of the 140 positions these are spread across Arizona counties.
“There will be problems that children come back to school with that we have never dealt with before,” said Laura Toenjes, superintendent of Cyrene.
Toenjes said the pandemic affected not only the students but also the district’s funding.
“We run the risk of potentially scaling back so we can stay at the level we have and possibly add some additional counselors and social workers,” Toenjes said.