State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) today welcomed news that the state Department of Education will distribute a total of $1,122,286.97 in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds over the next three years to four school districts in the 33rd Senate District to hire and maintain school mental health workers in the 2023, 2024 and 2025 school years. Portland Schools, East Hampton Schools, East Haddam Schools and Regional School District 17 (Haddam-Killingworth) will receive these funds in the next three years.

Priority was given to districts with a high ratio of students to school mental health workers and a high rate of student use of school mental health services. Portland Schools will receive $316,355.87 over three years; East Hampton Schools will receive $238,121.10 over three years; East Haddam Schools will receive $270,810 over three years; and Regional School District will receive $297,000 over three years.

"For several years now, my colleagues and I have worked to provide support for children's mental health, amid a growing crisis putting pressure on our youth," said Sen. Needleman. "It is reassuring to know students who may be at risk or who may be struggling will have professionals who they can confide in and receive help from. This will make an important difference in our communities and I'm glad we can support local children who may be in need."

This is the first of three rounds of grants aimed at increasing the number of mental health workers in schools that are being administered by the state using ARPA funding. A second round – the School Mental Health Specialists Grant – will soon provide grants totaling $15 million. A third grant program will provide $8 million to summer camps and school-based summer programming for mental health support.

The federal ARPA funds were approved by Democrats in Congress in 2021, and were part of the 2022's Connecticut State Senate Bill 1, "AN ACT CONCERNING CHILDHOOD MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH SERVICES IN SCHOOLS," which was Sen. Needleman and the Senate Democrats' priority bill for the year to expand health services in schools.