Investing in mental health resources for students in rural areas

The Looser-Flake foundation is awarding over $150,000 to schools in Mercer and Sherrard County to be used to expand mental health resources.

“Kids especially tend to exhibit symptoms of mental health issues depression anxiety typically in school performance.” Dr. Derek Ball with Illinois Association for Marriage and Family Therapy explained. “One key role that schools play for us in our society is they are the folks that see kids first — they see struggles first in kids — being able to address things early is really the most effective treatment.”

Kelly Thompson, a spokesperson for the Quad Cities Community Foundation described how local schools could benefit from increased access to mental health services. “This will not only double amount of time staff can spend serving students in each school district it’ll also provide 3 years essentially make sure service is consistent and can be counted on by students over next few years.” Thompson said.

Mercer County is categorized as a “Health Professional Shortage Area” with one mental healthcare provider for every 7800 residents — a ratio considered low when compared to the state and federal levels. The foundation’s grant is part of a larger initiative, to increase mental health programming accessibility to students in rural areas.

The grant will provide care incrementally over the next three years and a spokesperson with the foundation says it should fully finance the mental health resource increases until 2024.