$15M to School-Based Mental Health Services in NJ: 11 High-Need Areas Identified
Governor Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) have allocated a total of $15 million to eleven high-need local educational agencies (LEAs). The funding is aimed at expanding school-based mental health services for students across the state.
The grant money comes from the federal School-Based Mental Health Services (SBMHS) Grant Program awarded to the NJDOE in December 2022. It will be used primarily to hire more school psychologists, counselors, and social workers. These new hires are expected to serve schools in communities that are under-resourced and demonstrate a pressing need for mental health services.
Who is Affected?
The eleven selected communities represent a diverse geographical span across New Jersey and include Perth Amboy, Hackensack, Jackson Township, Union Township, Bogota, Union City, Pinelands Regional, Cumberland Regional, Collingswood Borough, Gloucester Township, and Hillside Township.
These municipalities were selected through a competitive grant process that prioritized communities with higher levels of poverty and insufficient mental health staffing.
How Will it Work?
Over a five-year grant period, these local educational agencies (or LEAs) will train and place over 200 school-based mental health professionals. The NJDOE encourages the grant recipients to develop effective strategies for both retention and recruitment to ensure the sustainability of this critical workforce.
“Increasing the support available to students in their schools is fundamental to addressing the ongoing youth mental health crisis,” stated Governor Murphy. “Building up a mental health workforce is part of the broader continuum of support we are developing to enable the next generation to thrive both in and out of school for years to come.”
This initiative directly correlates with the pillars from Governor Murphy’s “Strengthening Youth Mental Health: A Governor’s Playbook,” which focuses on prevention, resilience, awareness, and reducing stigma, among other aspects. It aims to ensure that high-quality, trauma-informed, and culturally relevant care is accessible to youth.
Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, the Acting Commissioner of Education, lauded the efforts, stating, “The awardees exemplify the transformative impact that can be achieved when passionate educators address the critical mental health needs of our students. Their efforts align seamlessly with our ongoing commitment to prioritize the emotional well-being of every student in New Jersey.”
The NJDOE will collaborate with the selected LEAs to begin implementing their respective proposals, thereby setting the stage for a comprehensive approach to youth mental health services in New Jersey schools.
This significant investment represents another step by the Murphy Administration towards bolstering mental health services for New Jersey's youth. It aims to not only fill the immediate gap in mental health personnel but also lay a robust foundation for sustainable mental wellness programs in schools for years to come.
If You Are Curious…A Snapshot of New Jersey’s School Psychology Workforce Today:
- 2021-22 Student to School Psychologist Ratio: 664 students to 1 psychologist
- Ratio Change from 2020-21: Worsening
- School Psychologists per 10k K-12 Students: 4.7
- New School Psychologists Entering Workforce per 10k Students: 0.6
- Average Salary of NJ School Psychologist: $88,570
- School Psychologist Graduate Programs Offered in NJ: 9
- 2021 School Psych. Graduates from NJ Schools: 84