AISD gets $4.5M to offer mental health support for child crime victims

FILE - Elementary students in a classroom. (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Elementary students in a classroom. (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District is drastically expanding mental health services to students.

The Criminal Justice Division of the Office of the Governor has awarded the district a grant totaling nearly $4.5 million to make it happen.

Monday, AISD trustees approved a contract with Vida Clinic to provide the extra mental health support to the youngest children. AISD says it’s the only district in the state to get funds from this particular division.

In 2011, the district set up its first mental health center at Crockett High School as a pilot program where contracted therapists worked with students and their families who were victims of crime.

It eventually expanded to 18 AISD middle and high schools.

Starting this spring, AISD says 22 campuses that feed into LBJ, Lanier and Akins High Schools will each have two staff members dedicated to mental health.

Based off data from Dell Children’s Medical Center, the schools share common factors:

  • High crime neighborhoods
  • Lack of transportation
  • Language
  • Challenges navigating support systems that often delay or prevent families from getting the help they need

“A lot of our students, especially students in high poverty, might come with layers of complexity or have been through trauma and so having somebody on site to help direct this and get them into the right resources — this is fantastic,” said School Board President Kendall Pace.

School staff are often the first to notice something is wrong.

Studies show if left untreated, children’s social and emotional development can suffer. It can also affect how children respond to stress which can have a direct impact on long-term academic and social success.

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