AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Education announced Thursday an investment of $9 million over five years to hire and retain more mental health providers in schools the state has identified as "high need."
The DOE said districts were selected based on low student to mental health provider ratios relative to the rest of the state and country.
The money comes from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in June of 2022.
Expanding Access in School Environments (EASE) Maine will provide five-year grants to the following high-need school administrative units (SAUs):
- Eastport Public Schools ($65,541 per year)
- Jefferson Public Schools ($67,947 per year)
- Lewiston Public Schools ($248,644 per year)
- RSU 12 ($92,698 per year)
- RSU 24 ($88,251 per year)
- RSU 54 ($141,655 per year)
- RSU 73 ($110,560 per year)
- RSU 79 ($121,496 per year)
- RSU 85 ($63,208 per year)
The districts will receive funding over the duration of the five-year grant, according to the state.
The money will be put toward increasing the number of highly qualified mental health services providers in schools. It will also help recruit, retain, and re-specialize staff to support the mental health and wellbeing of students, staff, and families, the release stated.
"Given the mental health challenges many of our students face, this grant couldn’t have come at a more crucial time," RSU 12 Superintendent Howard Tuttle said in the DOE release.
DOE staff said the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated mental health issues students were already dealing with.