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Concord’s schools receive grant to improve mental health services

The Concord School District will receive about $2 million over four years for efforts to improve behavioral and mental health services for students.

The money is part of an $8.6 million federal grant awarded to the state that will benefit up to 10,000 children in four years, Gov. Maggie Hassan announced yesterday. Rochester’s and Laconia’s school districts will also receive money under the grant. All three districts have a higher rate of poverty than the state average, which contributed to their selection as schools to receive grant money. They’ll work in collaboration with the state departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

“Our school districts and community partners play critical roles in supporting New Hampshire’s students and their families. This grant will support our efforts to improve and better coordinate our mental health care system in communities across New Hampshire,” Hassan said.

The first year of the grant is a planning period, said Donna Palley, assistant superintendent in Concord. With the money, Concord will aim to provide more mental health support for children, increase access to early childhood development resources and reduce school violence and substance abuse. Some of the work will likely happen through community partnerships and outside of the schools, she said.

“This is to really improve the services, to broaden the services,” Palley said. “We want to reach out and (find) larger support and enhance what we’re doing.”

Goals of the initiative specifically include changing policies and increasing professional development in mental health areas, focusing on the emotional and social needs of children up to age 5, reducing school violence and punitive disciplinary policies, focusing on children and families with the highest needs, increasing family and youth engagement in decision making related to behavioral issues and decreasing alcohol and substance abuse.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue our statewide work towards ensuring New Hampshire residents have access to the support they need to live the fulfilling lives they deserve,” HHS Commissioner Nick Toumpas said in a statement.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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