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State grant will help District 161 support mental health services

Flossmoor School District 161 recently earned a $635,000 Community Partnership Grant from the Illinois State Board of Education to support mental health services for students and educators in the post-pandemic world.

“We originally wrote the grant for $113,000 and they gave us $635,000, so that was pretty exciting. I think a lot of districts didn’t apply for this grant opportunity, so there ended up being a bigger pool of money,” said Jackie Janicke, director of special education. “Now that we are able to expand services to our general education population we’re really going to be revamping how we use SEL (social/ emotional learning).”

In the grant application, Janicke laid out three specific goals:

  1. Addressing out-of-school barriers through partnerships with community health and services agencies.
  2. Establishing collaborative leadership practices in the community.
  3. Building active parent/guardian and community engagement.

While the administrative team in District 161 continues to explore and establish community engagement, Janicke has already put programs in place for goals one and two.

District 161 partners with Minds Empowered, a counseling center in Homewood, to provide mental health counseling services to a select handful of district students. The funding will enable the district to offer free counseling services through Minds Empowered to every student.

“This will be really important for parents to not have to worry about insurance,” said Janicke.
“Especially the parents with any kind of public insurance, like Medicaid; they often have to wait for approvals and in some cases, therapists don’t even accept public insurance. So, this is really important for those families.”

The grant funding will also benefit District 161 staff with the implementation of the Second Step for Adults program geared toward supporting the district’s ongoing efforts of fostering collaborative leadership practices, including building a professional learning culture, establishing collective trust and shared responsibility.

The district will continue to explore additional community partnerships using the ISBE grant funding to enhance its social and emotional learning programming across the district.

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