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Miami University initiative receives $5M to address ongoing mental health crisis in Ohio K-12 schools

New School-Based Center of Excellence will prioritize statewide prevention and early intervention for students and staff

cricket meehan discusses state-wide mental health school-based initiatives
Cricket Meehan discusses statewide K-12 mental health initiatives
Oxford and Beyond Excellence and Expertise

Miami University initiative receives $5M to address ongoing mental health crisis in Ohio K-12 schools

Cricket Meehan discusses statewide K-12 mental health initiatives

Miami University has been awarded $5M through a partnership between Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to prioritize mental health and wellness for K-12 students and staff across the state.

The grant will allow Miami to transform the Center for School-Based Mental Health Programs into a new School-Based Center of Excellence (SBCOE) for Prevention and Early Intervention to address an ongoing mental health crisis. 

“By partnering to create this new School-Based Center of Excellence for Prevention and Intervention, where teachers and administrators can learn to implement prevention and intervention practices in their classrooms and schools, we are demonstrating that good mental health is just essential to physical wellbeing and academic success,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “This Center For Excellence will help compliment the Student Wellness and Success Funds, staff trainings, and prevention curriculum resources already received.”

The SBCOE will act as a hub to house a host of current and ongoing school-based mental health initiatives, statewide projects, and multi-year projects including the Ohio School Wellness Initiative (OSWI), which recently completed a 21-month plan to establish best practice standards for student assistance programs and staff wellness frameworks.

“Even before COVID, mental health issues have skyrocketed,” said Miami University SBCOE Director Cricket Meehan. “Social isolation, anxiety, and depression are impacting classrooms and schools at a much higher level than ever before. All of us play a role in mitigating those concerns, and that's a big part of the School-Based Center of Excellence. We will help to identify what each and every person's role is, ensure that they have the supports and the tools they need, and that collaborative partnerships are working together harmoniously.”

Currently, no other school-based center of excellence exists in Ohio, and the funds provided by OhioMHAS and ODE will be used to facilitate a statewide SBCOE launch during the biennium budget cycle running from August 1, 2022 through June 30, 2024.

“Creating strong behavioral health supports in our schools so that teachers can teach, kids can learn, and parents can worry less is an important part of the Governor’s commitment to the health and well-being of children everywhere,” said Lori Criss, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “Catching and treating mental health problems and addiction at their earliest onset can lessen the chances of life-long challenges, and the collaborative, best-practice prevention work that Miami University is leading will benefit children, families, and schools in communities across our state.”

The new $5M grant follows the $6M already provided to OSWI via Ohio’s Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund. The OhioMHAS Office of Prevention Services and the Ohio Department of Education Office of Whole Child Supports have been working closely with stakeholders to understand how they now can best address student and educator well-being and mental health needs. From that work, the offices have determined that Ohio needs to establish a Center of Excellence for School-Based Prevention & Early Intervention.

“Governor DeWine has continuously placed an emphasis on both foundational learning for students and programs to promote their health, mental health, safety and well-being,” Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Stephanie Siddens said. “The new School-Based Center of Excellence will advance this combined emphasis to ensure Ohio schools have the prevention and early intervention resources and supports they need to create safe and caring learning environments where students can learn and grow.”

OSWI will continue to exist within the SBCOE by offering schools a newly established behavioral health and wellness model that has already been piloted in over 70 Ohio K-12 schools.

Alongside OSWI, the SBCOE will oversee several additional plans and projects including:

  • Supporting a workforce development program to address the shortage of K-12 mental health providers by providing training and support for aspiring and existing professionals.
  • Facilitating key collaborative partnerships among educational institutions, professional organizations, and businesses that have a vested interest in the well-being of families, children, students, and schools across communities.
  • Identifying additional areas that need further positive behavioral interventions and supports including new anti-bullying lessons and campaigns, and more.
  • Establishing more services for students who may need extra support, as well as for those with previously diagnosed mental health or substance use issues who may need intensive individualized services.
  • Conducting ongoing research and evaluation to identify the supports students receive, the range services being offered, and the effectiveness of related outcomes.

“Cricket Meehan and her team have done an incredible job addressing and discovering resources on school mental health over the years," said Miami University President Greg Crawford. “Their work is vital to our community, and to see it recognized with transformation to the new School-Based Center of Excellence is astounding. This center will be a model for prevention and early intervention services across Ohio and beyond.”