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Sun Prairie among districts to receive mental health grant

SUN PRAIRIE (WKOW) — The grants were announced back in July, but on Tuesday, students in Sun Prairie will start to see the impact from their $75,000 grant that will expand mental health services. 

"Schools are microcosms of society. So, everything that’s present in society for adults or children, it’s present in schools for children," said Jennifer Apodaca, the director for student services at Sun Prairie Area School District. 

"“In a given year, one in five students faces a mental health issue, with more than 80 percent of incidents going untreated. Those students who do get help, more often than not, receive it through their school,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers in a press release sent out to announce the winners of the mental health grants. 

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction awarded more than 60 school districts with the grants ranging from $11,000 to $75,000. Sun Prairie received one of the largest grants as it was awarded $75,000. 

"We were very, very exciting," said Apodaca with a grin. 

She said the grant will help expand health services already provided by the district. 

"We are going to expand an existing trauma screening program that’s at one of our elementary schools. We’re going to expand it to two additional elementary schools," she explained. 

The program will need parental consent. The screening will include school counselors questioning students to see if they are going through any hardships that could be having an impact on them. If they are, they can be placed in an intervention such as a small group where they can get the help they need to overcome what they’re going through. 

It’s an expansion that comes at a crucial time for a community that experienced the explosion earlier in the summer. 

"The trauma that kids experience can vary from things that are very obvious to us and things that we would never know impacted them in a negative way," said Apodaca. 

The district will also start a pilot program at two elementary schools. A mental health clinician will be on those campuses 20 hours a week for students who need to see a mental health professional. Apodaca noted this could be helpful for families who can’t take off work to get their child to a mental health doctor for treatment. 

"Without mental health services, without social and emotional services integrated into our schools, our kids are missing out on a piece of what helps them be successful as students and adults later on down the road," said Apodaca. 

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