Grant to help Goodhue education district tackle mental health issues
RED WING — The Goodhue County Education District recently received a $100,000 grant through President Obama's $15 million "Now Is The Time" initiative targeted at improving mental health.
The money will be used to train GCED staff and county liaisons who engage with youth to "understand, recognize, and respond to signs of mental illness or substance abuse in children and youth, including how to talk to adolescents and families experiencing these problems so they are more willing to seek treatment," according to the federal website that announced the grant recipients.
Cherie Johnson, GCED executive director, called it an important step for her program that includes students from the following school districts: Red Wing, Goodhue, Cannon Falls, Zumbrota-Mazeppa, Kenyon-Wanamingo and the recently added Lake City.
"We can't get to the reading and the math, the academics, until we support the mental health needs of our students," Johnson said. "We need to be part of the solution. We can't just say we're focused on academics."
GCED is one of just four Minnesota agencies selected for funding. The others include St. Paul, St. Cloud and Northfield.
The proximity of Northfield also provides a secondary boon. Rather than paying travel costs to attend a national training seminar, Johnson says trainers will be flown in for a joint training session in February.
Some local officials will attend that training session before returning to instruct the rest of the staff on the new methods. It's expected to foster increased communication and collaboration with staff from Goodhue County Health and Human Services, which is also located in Red Wing.
"There is increasing need, but there is also an increasing push … for the county agencies and school districts to partner together to meet those needs," Johnson said.
The grant is just the latest in what's been a banner year for the GCED. Over the summer, school boards across Goodhue County approved a $14 million centralized facility located across from Red Wing High School. Officials broke ground on the construction site this fall and expect it to open with the 2015-16 school year.
After the plan was approved, Lake City voted to leave the Hiawatha Valley Education District in order to take advantage of the new facility that will be located 20 minutes away. That move will save the five original GCED members money during the construction process.