The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) announced $6 million in funding to expand culturally responsive mental health services in Madison schools on April 4.
The program, funded by a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, will train 24 psychology graduate students to provide Madison schools with mental health resources that affirm student identities and address staffing shortages. The graduate students will be recruited from diverse backgrounds and provided with tuition, transportation, stipends and childcare, according to a press release from the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at UW-Madison.
MMSD Director of Mental Health Services Kristen Guetschow, a member of the grant team, told The Daily Cardinal the program will address inequities within the field.
“We are working from the context of a national school psychology shortage, yet we know that just adding ‘more’ isn't enough,” Guetschow said in an email. “Our field is disproportionately represented by white women. We recognize the importance of increasing the diversity of our student services staff. Any opportunity to bring additional high quality culturally relevant services into our schools is so important for our students' wellbeing.”
Program curricula will focus on supporting marginalized students, inclusivity and employing methods based on evidence to create spaces where students feel comfortable expressing themselves.
A 2022 study by the National Center for Education Statistics found schools with inadequate mental health services reported three main issues: an insufficient number of mental health professionals to manage their school's caseload, inadequate access to licensed mental health professionals and inadequate funding.
UW-Madison’s training initiative will require graduates to spend three years in local, high-needs schools.
In a post-pandemic world, students are suffering and mental health services are paramount. The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2021 that more than 42% of students felt persistently sad or hopeless and nearly one-third experienced poor mental health.
In December 2022, Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction released survey data stating more than half of all students self-reported “significant problems with anxiety.” Students of color, women and LGBTQ students reported higher rates of anxiety and feelings of hopelessness than their peers.
According to Guetschow, the new program will ensure all students receive equal access to professionals who understand them and are capable of addressing their mental health needs.
“We feel committed to this program to build an infrastructure from the university and district levels to build a program that will be sustainable over time,” Guetschow said. “We know we will be able to learn and grow together in this program through ongoing collaboration, problem solving and strategizing.”
The training program will recruit and train a class of six graduate students each year for the next four years beginning in the fall of 2023.