University of the Pacific announced Tuesday a $5.6 million grant award that will expand access to mental health services at K-12 schools within San Joaquin Valley.

The grant was awarded to UOP's Benerd College and is the second-largest allocation given to the university in its history. Benerd College focuses on counseling, psychology, teaching, health professions education and other educational areas.

Funding for the five-year grant was made possible through the U.S. Department of Education and will cover the cost of tuition for graduate students in Benerd's counseling and school psychology programs.

“This grant will make a marked difference for our area schools, which are struggling to meet the mental health needs of their students,” project lead and associate professor Amy Scott Brown said in a press release. “Schools are often the first — and sometimes only — resource for students to access mental health care.”

According to UOP, eight graduate students per year will provide mental health services to schools in high demand in the region over the five years of the grant.

Data provided by the university showed that one school district in the San Joaquin Valley has three school psychologists and three counselors to provide services to more than 6,600 students, leaving a severe shortage of services for students.

“I'm excited to intern in a high-needs district and provide much-needed mental health services to the school-aged population,” UOP student Victoria Pacajoj Santos said in the university's press release.

Additionally, graduate students who speak different languages will be sent to areas where counselors and psychologists are vital.

Schools that will be helped through the grant include Empire Union School District, Escalon Unified School District, Great Valley Academy Modesto, Great Valley Academy Salida, Hickman Community Charter District, Linden Unified School District, Merced City School District, Merced Union High School District, New Jerusalem School District, Salida Union School District and all school districts and a charter school in Tuolumne County.

Jamie Hughes, assistant superintendent of educational and student services for Linden Unified School District, called the partnership “much needed” for the community in order to expand and provide more mental health access.

The university said preference for tuition coverage will be given to people identified by school districts with an interest in becoming mental health service providers, people who live in nearby communities and those who are bilingual.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *