MONTEREY COUNTY — Monterey County Office of Education (MCOE) and Monterey County Behavioral Health announced Aug. 20 they had been awarded a grant in the amount of nearly $4 million for mental health services, after having applied in February 2020.

“We are excited to have this additional support at a time when we need it most,” said Deneen Guss, Monterey County Superintendent of Schools. “Many students are returning to school after experiencing great trauma and need the support that this grant provides. We are thrilled to have such a strong partnership with Behavioral Health and we look forward to our continued work together in support of the students and families we serve.”

The funding made available through this grant will provide resources for more growth and scale-up of interconnected systems framework (ISF) to improve efforts and expand learning communities within the involved districts. 

The scale-up will allow for the full ISF approach of a district-wide systemic, collaborative approach to meeting the mental health needs of children, youth and families. It provides community-based mental health services and fosters joint efforts between schools and service providers for students and their families.

The seven districts currently engaged with these efforts included in this grant project are: Alisal Union School District, Gonzales Union School District, King City Union School District, Salinas City Elementary School District, Salinas Union High School District, San Antonio Union Elementary School District and Soledad Unified School District.

Funding will also go toward the MCOE School Climate and Culture Coordinator position, meant to boost efforts toward positive behavioral interventions and supports, an academic strategy framework aimed at improving student behavior with a more positive outlook rather than punitive.

“It was wonderful to receive news of the award at this moment in time,” said Marni Sandoval, deputy director of Monterey County Behavioral Health, Child and Adolescent Services. “The impact the pandemic has had on children, youth and families has been significant; the chronic stress and trauma that children and youth have been experiencing will undoubtedly be present as they return to school.” 

According to Sandoval, Behavioral Health has been committed to bringing mental health supports and services to school campuses throughout Monterey County and this grant support will assist in furthering these efforts.

“Our long standing collaborative partnership with the Office of Education is incredible and I know we will continue to work together to meet the needs of the children and families in our community,” Sandoval said.

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Sean Roney is a freelance reporter for King City Rustler and Salinas Valley Tribune, a unified publication of Greenfield News, Soledad Bee and Gonzales Tribune. He covers general news for the Salinas Valley communities in South Monterey County.


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