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Michigan schools hiring hundreds of mental health staffers

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said this week that students will have the best chance at learning when their mental and physical health needs are met.

LANSING, Mich. — Schools across Michigan are working to recruit 562 mental and physical health professionals, mostly to respond to student needs related to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said this week that students will have the best chance at learning when their mental and physical health needs are met.

The American School Counselor Association said Michigan ranked second worst in the United States in the 2019-2020 school year in its student-to-school-counselor ratio at 671-to-1. The association recommends a 250-to-1 ratio. 

RELATED: Michigan schools look to tap state funds for new mental health staff

The effort to bolster the number of counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses in schools is being funded by the $17.1 billion state K-12 budget Whitmer signed in the summer.

"We have not invested in mental health as a state for years and years and years," said Diane Golzynski, Director of the Office of Health and Nutrition Services with Michigan Department of Education. "In fact, [2018] is the first time in my lifetime I can remember truly investing in mental health."

The funding will be prorated over the three-year period, starting with $120 million available for 2022, $80 million for 2023 and $40 million for 2024. The application deadline for schools to apply is March 1, 2022.

In order to receive funding, schools have to retain the positions after the state funding runs out, making the investment into students' mental and physical health viable for the future.

So far, 226 schools have applied across the state, requesting roughly $65 million for 2022. 

Some schools are only asking for enough to cover a part-time salary at one position, while others, like Zeeland Public Schools, have already hired staff.  

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