Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

A federal grant will bring more counselors to Northern Kentucky schools

Students Heng Yang and Evan Duncan with Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman
Zack Carreon
Students Heng Yang and Evan Duncan with Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman visited Cold Spring Tuesday to announce $13.3 million in funding to the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services to expand access to student mental health services in the region.

The funding will be provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help address mental health issues students may be facing after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $13.3 million will be given to NKCES over the course of five years to hire and recruit additional mental health professionals and counselors to work with students at local schools. This year, NKCES will be able to hire 10 new counselors to work in 19 area school districts. The following year, 20 more counselors are expected to join the effort.

Like many other jobs in the education field, finding counselors to fill those positions could present a challenge, so NKCES will be using some grant funds to attract people from nearby universities and all over the state.

"They built in a position that's going to be a higher ed liaison, so communicating with all of our higher ed agencies to talk about who's interested in mental health and how we can support them," NKCES' Director of Learning and Empowerment Jessica Pass said. "It's also written to help people who are interested in transitioning from another career into mental health and there's some support written into the grant and also someone who's going to travel around and recruit mental health providers to Northern Kentucky."

And those counselors will be badly needed, according to Jennifer Glass, a counselor at Lloyd Memorial High School in Erlanger who spoke during the announcement.

"Before the pandemic hit, there was already a need for mental health services in schools, but now the need has increased exponentially," Glass said.

During a mental health roundtable a few weeks ago, Glass says students at her school expressed there were simply not enough mental health professionals within the school district to accommodate all of its students.

Glass says one student told her, "I wish there were more people to talk to. There are only, like, three people to talk to and hundreds of students that need their help."

Other students like Heng Yang from Conner High School in Hebron agreed. Yang says many students like him have been feeling disconnected since the start of the pandemic.

"This grant is meant to help kids transition out of the pandemic and get them the help they need, because all of the isolation that has damaged people's mental health," Yang said.

Student input was a major factor in gaining support for the grant. NKCES Executive Director Amy Razor told WVXU that students identified mental health as one of their biggest concerns.

"We think as adults we know what it is, but when you hear it from their perspective and how they're viewing the needs with suicide rates and how the stigma exists in their mind, I think that really got us moving," Razor said.

NKCES say it will work with each of its local districts to facilitate counselors and ensure every school is connected to mental health services.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.