Traverse City — Funds allocated by Greater Traverse County under the American Rescue Plan Act will help northern Michigan’s largest school district expand its mental health services and make health care more accessible to students.
In 2021, the Grand Traverse County Commission received $18.2 million in America’s Rescue Program funding from the federal government. At its final meeting in 2022, the county board decided to allocate $10 million of these funds to 27 different proposals from the community, two of which would affect TCAPS students, staff and parents.
$10,000 in ARPA funding guaranteed for the Traverse City Public Schools’ high school peer-to-peer program and $150,000 guaranteed for a child and youth health center at Traverse City West Middle School in partnership with Northwest Michigan Health Services Dollar.
TCAPS’ peer-to-peer programming is based on the peer-to-peer depression awareness program developed by the University of Michigan Depression Center. The program’s premise is that teens are more likely than adults to talk to and listen to other teens when they’re struggling with mental health.
Staff from the University of Michigan Depression Center traveled to Traverse City in early September to conduct training for staff and students at Traverse City West High School and Traverse City Central High School. These trainings are designed to educate students about mental health conditions and concerns so they can recognize conditions such as depression or anxiety in their peers, reach out to them and encourage them to seek help.
TCAPS received a $45,000 grant from the Rotary Charities of Traverse City to help defray the cost of implementing the peer-to-peer program at WSHS and CHS. The total cost of the program is estimated at $67,000, TCAPS communications director Ginger Smith said in an email.
Peer-to-peer programming is already in full swing, but the students involved have asked for a better space, supervised by staff, where students can congregate or sit alone, relax, and relax during the school day if they feel overwhelmed. feel more comfortable.
TCAPS requested $22,000 in funding from ARPA to undertake minor renovations at each school to build and furnish the rooms. They received a $10,000 award from the county, but they also received $2,000 in equipment and supplies for the program through the Rotary Club of Traverse Public Welfare Fund.
For the first time this year, the Peer-to-Peer program is in a pilot phase and TCAPS will decide whether to expand it beyond the high school level, Smith said in an interview.
“We’re doing everything we can to remove the stigma associated with mental health and behavioral health issues,” Smith said. “It’s just another step … to open up the conversation and make it a norm so you can say, ‘Hey, I don’t feel right, and here’s why.'”
She said the work was in line with the goals outlined in TCAPS’ strategic plan to “develop and implement support structures and systems to enhance mental and emotional health and social well-being”. It’s also in line with TCAPS’ wellness initiative, which follows TCAPS’ 2021 award from the Rotary Charity System Change Accelerator grant, she said.
TCAPS will also benefit from a $150,000 ARPA grant to Northwest Michigan Health Services.
In the fall, NMHSI received a $170,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to establish a Child and Adolescent Health Clinic at Traverse City West High School. This funding from MDHHS continues to cover salaries, but additional funds are needed to renovate the space available at the WMS.
TCAPS and NMHSI jointly applied to the county for $150,000 in ARPA funding and were awarded the full amount.
TCAPS has not yet initiated the bidding process for the middle school renovations needed to build the wellness center, which is scheduled to open in fall 2023.
NMHSI CEO Heidi Britton said the clinic will be staffed by a nurse practitioner, a medical assistant and a behavioral health therapist and will be open three days a week.
WMS was chosen as the location for the clinic because it has the largest physical space and the highest concentration of student populations in the region, but it will be open to all TCAPS students, Britton said.
The clinic will have a board of trustees made up of students who will play a role in overseeing the clinic’s services and policies.
MDHHS has been funding schools and health services over the years to develop this clinic model “remarkably well,” Britton said. It removes the barriers people face when trying to get care and reduces the amount of school time kids might miss, Britton said.
It will also allow children to begin to understand the world of healthcare and learn how to talk about their medical needs and advocate for their own care, she said.
“When we met at TCAPS with the team there, everyone was very excited about it,” Britton said. “Everyone knows it’s a very positive thing to put it in the school district.”