FCPS receives $13.5 million for mental health

The United States Department of Education awarded FCPS a grant of $13.5 million to support school mental health services, according to Superintendent Reid at a school board meeting this February. The grant came as a part of the federal government’s School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program that FCPS applied for in 2023.

According to social worker Katherine Purkert, funding for mental health services are based on the SEL screeners and Youth Surveys students fill out in school.

“The number of social workers depends on the needs of the school,” Purkert said. “The things that are coming out in the research and the youth surveys that Fairfax County does are certainly similar things that we’ve seen here in this building with increasing mental health needs, whether that is students who are accessing outpatient mental health services or students who are accessing more intensive levels of support.”

Counselor Douglas Sawitzky predicted the grant will go towards hiring more mental health professionals across the county, which aligns with the goals outlined in a presentation used at the February school board meeting.

“I’ve literally seen it on the FCPS Instagram account, that there’s going to be more staffing for mental health professionals next year,” Sawitsky said.

The goals attempt to increase the number of school mental health professionals in various schools.

“So when I kind of think of our mental health support team here at Marshall, I think about all the counselors that we have, I think about myself, I think about Ms. Stark who’s our psychologist, I think about Ms. Jacobi who’s our substance abuse prevention specialist,” Purkert said. “And I know that certainly, I think we would all love to have a few more team members as part of that team.”

FCPS has also partnered with an online teletherapy business called Hazel Health to reduce potential barriers obstructing family access to therapy.

“Starting April 10, students and families will be able to either refer themselves to Hazel for essentially what we would call short term behavioral health, so approximately six to eight sessions, at no cost,” Purkert said.

FCPS has already been given $2 million to start these new initiatives by the federal government this January, with the rest of the money being given every few months over the next five years.