Kids in some rural areas of Oklahoma are getting a little more support, due to an ongoing grant effort through the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
The latest AWARE grants awarded to rural Oklahoma schools will help provide services for students in need of mental health support.
The grant is from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and will go to support the social and emotional needs of students in areas where few providers are close by for anyone.
“This grant is going to go along ways towards filling in those gaps where our counselors just don’t have the amount of time in the day because they are stretched so thin,” said Mark Moring, superintendent of Davis Public Schools.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, the ratio of population to mental health providers in the Project AWARE south region - including Lawton, Davis, and Sulphur - is 629:1.
The Oklahoma state average is 201:1.
The department also reports that 1 in 5 students has some sort of mental health need.
“Most of them, when they are struggling academically, their needs aren’t being met somewhere else in their life,” Moring said.
New grant-funded licensed professional counselors will teach coping skills and support preventative mental health measures.
“Part of that is going to go hand in hand with some of the training with our communities and parents and families, on hopefully dealing with some of these mental health issues so that they are not brought into the classroom,” said Matt Holder, superintendent of Sulphur Public Schools.
He said outbursts in the classroom that lead to disciplinary issues are often about trauma or stress at home.
“Suspensions, again, are a reactive measure but the school when somebody does something wrong. Usually, you know, we're basically sending that student back home to a situation that might not be the best,” said Moring.
Both Davis and Sulphur Public Schools are accepting applications for community grant managers and licensed professional counselors. If you’re interested in applying, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.