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Michigan schools hiring hundreds of mental health staffers

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Michigan ranked 2nd worst in the 2019-2020 school year in its student-to-school-counselor ratio at 671-to-1, according to the American School Counselor Association

Schools across Michigan are recruiting 562 mental and physical health professionals---as experts say-- the increase is needed after years of understaffing—coupled with the physiological toll the pandemic has brought on students.

The effort to bolster the number of counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses in schools is being funded by the $17.1 billion state K-12 budget Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed last summer. It includes a $240 million allocation to hire staff to support students as they grapple with mental and physical health needs that were highlighted and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

School districts have until March 1 to hire staff to be eligible to apply for grants to fully fund positions with state money.

Michigan has been severely lacking in hiring and retaining mental health support staff for the last decade, according to the Michigan School Counselor Association---as Michigan ranked second worst in the U.S. in the 2019-2020 school year in its student-to-school-counselor ratio at 671-to-1, the MSCA recommends at least a 250-to-1 ratio.

Prior to the pandemic, students in Michigan already saw an increase in recent years of student mental health needs, specifically in the areas of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Those needs intensified as many students returned to in-person instruction in 2021 after being isolated from peers and school mental health resources during the height of the pandemic.

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