Block & Department of Education Grants Provide Funding for More Mental Health Staff

School districts in need of mental health, behavioral health, safety planning resources, and substance use prevention now have access to expanded resources through ESD 112’s Regional School Safety Center.

Thanks to the Legislature’s House Bill 1216, passed in 2019, Regional School Safety Centers (RSSCs) were established at regional ESDs, in partnership with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

ESD 112’s RSSC utilizes a best practices approach to offering behavioral health services, student threat assessment, school safety coordination, and wellness and treatment services.

Recently, ESD 112 received additional funding to help support two mental health therapists and a substance use disorder professional. The funding, which comes from Block Grant Funding, was awarded by Carelon to continue behavioral health services for up to three fiscal years. Additionally, ESD 112’s RSSC also received another $5 million Department of Education Grant to support work with the local universities to bolster workforce development and the pipeline of mental health staff.

“We are thrilled to be able to add more staff and an avenue to support our growing team focused entirely on supporting student safety and well-being,” said Denise Dishongh, director of behavioral health and the Regional School Safety Center. “We are in the process of building out the framework for a one-stop-shop for school districts when it comes to mental health therapy, suicide prevention training, emergency operations planning, and threat assessments, and additional funding gets us closer to satisfying goal.”

The 2022-23 school year has been a “building” year for the program, which now has more than 20 staff members including mental health therapists, behavioral health clinical supervisors, and substance use disorder specialists, a safety coordinator, and a threat assessment coordinator. The new positions funded by the Block Grant will be in addition to the 20-plus team members already in place.

“Student safety services and behavioral health services have previously been siloed,” said Dishongh. “The RSSC is transformational because brings all of these elements together to provide comprehensive, wrap-around supports for schools and students.”

Learn more about the Regional School Safety Center >