Charleigh Browning and other members of the Commissioner's Student Advisory Council sit at a table speaking at the Kentucky legislature's Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting.

Charleigh Browning (left), a senior at Marion County High School, and other members of the Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council speak on student mental health at the Kentucky legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting on Aug. 16. They were joined by Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman (middle), who cited data on student mental health. Photo from the office of Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, Aug. 16, 2022

Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman joined students and local educational leaders on Feb. 21 to announce federal funding that will increase access to school-based mental health services for over 100,000 students.

The U.S. Department of Education selected two educational cooperatives that applied for funding. The Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services (NKCES) will receive $13,263,481 over five years, and the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC) will receive $5,281,577 over five years.

“As a teacher, I dedicated my career to serving my community from the classroom,” said Lt. Gov. Coleman. “In our education-first administration, Kentucky’s students and their well-being remain top of mind. Now is the time to invest heavily in our students – beyond the tangible objects like facilities and books. I applaud the U.S. Department of Education for this funding, the educational cooperatives for their leadership and the participating school districts for prioritizing their students’ mental health.”

NKCES will use the funding to increase the number of school-based mental health service providers and the number of students receiving school-based mental health services by hiring 10 providers in the first year and 20 in succeeding years. This will impact more than 65,000 students in northern Kentucky.

“As we have lived through the past two years, the need for mental health services is increasing. Providing resources for our students to optimize their mental health is a top priority of ours, which is why we are so grateful to receive this important grant. We are proactive about emotional wellness in our school communities and these funds will be invested to strengthen the pipeline of support for our students,” said Amy Razor, executive director of NKCES. “I am eager to get to work right away with our superintendents and public school administrators to widen access to mental health services and enhance the programs already in place for students across the region.”

OVEC will use the funds to help alleviate the shortage of mental health professionals serving K-12 students for several school districts in north-central Kentucky by recruiting and hiring 12 new certified school counselors. The new counselors will be distributed among 10 districts. This will impact more than 47,000 K-12 students in northern central Kentucky.

“The surge in students’ social and emotional concerns is nothing less than a mental health pandemic,” said Jason Adkins, OVEC’s chief executive officer. “I am grateful for our dedicated team that secured this U.S. Department of Education grant, which will strengthen our efforts to help students.”

For the past two years, Lt. Gov. Coleman has worked with students from the Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council to address the student mental health crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, they hosted 10 summits across the commonwealth, hearing from students on resources and support they needed. The students collected data and developed policy recommendations that were presented to the Kentucky legislature.

To learn more about the funding, visit the U.S. Department of Education website.