Millage provides $2.3 million for Washtenaw ISD to implement youth mental health programming

​​This article is part of a series about mental health in Washtenaw County. It is made possible with funding from Washtenaw County's Public Safety and Mental Health Preservation Millage.

The Washtenaw County Public Safety and Mental Health Preservation Millage Advisory Committee has granted $2.3 million to the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) to support youth mental health programming. The funding will be distributed over three years and aims to increase resources for students, parents, and teachers. 

"The whole objective was to build capacity to sustain and expand mental health services being offered to youth across Washtenaw County," says Lisa Gentz, program administrator with Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (WCCMH).
According to WCCMH, distribution of the grant will take a three-tiered approach: universal prevention, early prevention, and referral and crisis services.
Among other things, Gentz says the first tier will involve the implementation of a mindfulness curriculum "so that teachers are able to implement trauma-informed practices in the school environment, because we know that trauma ties into the need for mental health support."
Gentz says the second tier, early prevention, will involve development of "a county-wide web-based system" to facilitate screening and documentation of mental health and substance use issues among students.
Gentz says the third tier, referral and crisis services, will mean "developing and continuing to enhance [schools’] ability to, when they identify a student who’s in crisis, help them to seamlessly get connected to specialty care related to mental health and substance use services." Each tier relies on evidence-based interventions.
The new funding builds on previous collaboration between WCCMH and WISD. 

"A lot of what we learned was that the early issues related to mental health start to present themselves in the education sector, and that we really needed to support that sector with being able to not only recognize those mental health signs and symptoms, but to be able to engage in some prevention," Gentz says.

Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.

Photo courtesy of Washtenaw County Community Mental Health.