Mental health grant seeks to address adverse childhood experiences in Humboldt
A new $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will be placing Masters of Social Work students at Humboldt State University in Eureka City Schools and Del Norte County schools as stipend workers.
“The grants themselves are funding positions at Eureka City Schools and also the Del Norte Unified School District,” Director of Field Education at HSU’s Department of Social Work Yvonne Doble said. “It’s actually a full time benefited position that’s being brought on at the school side to support our students.”
Announced Nov. 20, the funds will come from the U.S. Department of Education Mental Health Service Professional Development Program.
Nearly $1 million of the grant will be going to Humboldt State to help support the students and get them prepared for applying for the Pupil Personnel Services Credential, which is necessary for social work students to be hired by schools.
“A large portion of that is coming specifically for the stipends for the students,” Doble said. “We plan to offer a class for stipend recipients, where they will receive faculty guidance and support regarding school social work practice.”
The grant will be placing Masters of Social Work students at HSU in varying levels of schools throughout Del Norte and Humboldt Counties.
“It looks like we are going to have eight students this next fall, maybe more, and that will move up to 13 to 15 students by year four of the grant,” Doble said.
Locally, students face higher than normal rates of Adverse Childhood Experiences in Humboldt and Del Norte.
“Our region, for a number of reasons, has California’s highest ACEs rates in Humboldt and Del Norte County,” Jack Bareilles, the Northern Humboldt Union High School District grants administrator and an author of the grant, said. “You’re looking at approximately a third of all kids are being raised in families with four or more of the ten ACEs. So there is just a real need for that here, and I believe that’s one of the reasons we got funded.”
ACEs can include things like alcohol and drug use or violence in the home, housing insecurity and food insecurity.
“Locally, there is a real need for support for students and support for families,” Bareilles said. “Social workers are uniquely qualified to provide, and that being said, we actually have a real shortage of social workers in the schools. It’s just something that we haven’t had before.”
Bareilles said the shortage comes from the lack of PPS credentials for students, and also because social workers, which are different from counselors and school psychiatrists, are mainly used in larger cities. Now, the PPS credential will be offered at HSU.
“The role of school social workers is to really help address social and emotional needs of our students,” Doble said. “It’s not just about academic counseling. It’s about providing resources to children and families. It’s about providing opportunities to developers, opportunities to repair harm that’s occurred.”
Bareilles said doing social work in school systems differs greatly from social work in other categories because the public schools operate under different processes than normal organizations.
“Having these interns work two days a week for a whole year working in a high school or middle school or elementary school, they will emerge from their MSW program with a real sense of, ‘Oh this is how schools work,'” Bareilles said. “So whether or not they are employed as a school social worker or some other child-serving social worker, they will really have a better ability of connecting the dots and getting kids what they need.”
Bareilles said the grant is a huge win for mental health support in Humboldt County and will help provide many troubled youths with the resources and personnel that they need.
“Kids and schools and families will be helped, and when push comes to shove, that is the most important thing,” Bareilles said.