ARPA dollars to expand TCAPS mental health services, including an in-school clinic

JANUARY 21 – TRAVEL CITY – Funding from the American Rescue Plan allocated by Grand Traverse County will help northern Michigan’s largest school district expand its mental health offerings and make medical services more accessible to students.

In 2021, the Grand Traverse County Commission received $18.2 million in American Rescue Plan funds from the federal government. At their last meeting of 2022, the county commission decided to allocate $10 million of those funds to 27 different proposals from the community, including two that would affect TCAPS students, staff, and parents.

Traverse City Area Public Schools has secured $10,000 in ARPA funding for a high school peer-to-peer program and $150,000, along with Northwest Michigan Health Services, to open a Child and Adolescent Health Center at Traverse City West Middle School.

Peer-to-peer programming at TCAPS is based on the peer-to-peer depression awareness program developed by the University of Michigan Depression Center. The program is built on the understanding that teens are more likely to talk to and listen to other teens than adults when it comes to their struggles with mental health.

Personnel from UM’s Depression Center came to Traverse City in early September and conducted trainings for staff and students at Traverse City West Senior High School and Traverse City High School High School. These exercises aim to educate students about mental health conditions and concerns so that they can identify conditions such as depression or anxiety in their peers, communicate with them and encourage them to seek help.

TCAPS has received a $45,000 grant from Rotary Charities of Traverse City to help cover the cost of implementing a Peer-to-Peer program at WSHS and CHS. The total cost of the program is estimated at $67,000, TCAPS director of communications Ginger Smith said in an email.

Peer-to-peer programming is already in full swing, but the students involved have asked for a better space where, under staff supervision, students can gather or sit on their own to relax and feel more at ease during the school day if they feel overwhelmed.

TCAPS requested $22,000 in ARPA funding to make minor renovations at each school to build and furnish these rooms. They were rewarded with $10,000 from the county, but they also received $2,000 for equipment and supplies for the program through a Traverse City Rotary Good Works grant.

This first year’s Peer-to-Peer program is in beta, Smith said in an interview, and TCAPS will decide whether or not to expand it beyond the high school level.

“We do everything we can to remove stigmas associated with mental health and behavioral health problems,” said Smith. “This is just another step… to open up the conversation and make it normative, make it so that you can say, ‘Hey, I’m not right with my feelings, and here’s why.'” “

This work, she said, is in line with a goal included in TCAPS’ strategic plan to “develop and implement structures and support systems to increase mental and emotional health and social well-being.” It’s also in line with the TCAPS Health and Wellness Initiative, which was implemented after TCAPS was awarded a Rotary Charity Systems Change Accelerator grant in 2021, she said.

TCAPS will also benefit from a $150,000 ARPA grant to Northwest Michigan Health Services.

In the fall, NMHSI received a $170,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to establish a child and adolescent health clinic at Traverse City West Middle School. This funding from MDHHS continues to pay salaries, but more funding was needed to replenish available space at WMS.

TCAPS and NMHSI worked together to apply for $150,000 in funding from the county, which was fully rewarded.

TCAPS has not yet begun the bidding process for the renovations to the middle school required to build the health center, but the plan is for the center to open in the fall of 2023.

NMHSI chief executive Heidi Britton said the clinic will be staffed by a nurse practitioner, medical assistant and behavioral health therapist, and will be open three days a week.

WMS was chosen as the location for the clinic because it has the most physical space and the most focused student body in the area, Britton said, but it will be open to all TCAPS students.

The clinic will have a board with students who will have a role in overseeing the clinic’s services and policies.

This model for the clinic, which MDHHS has been providing funding to schools and health services to develop for years, is “fantastic,” Britton said. It removes the barriers people face when trying to access care, Britton said, and reduces the amount of school time children may miss.

It will also allow children to be able to begin to understand the healthcare world and learn how to talk about their medical needs and advocate for their care at an early age, she said.

“When we met the team there at TCAPS, everyone was so excited about it,” said Britton. “Everyone knows it’s a positive thing to be in a school district.”

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