Pennsylvania Schools to Receive $155M Boost for Safety and Security, with Emphasis on Mental Health Resources

School Safety

HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania schools are set to benefit from a substantial investment in safety and security measures, including a significant focus on mental health resources. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) recently announced that more than $155 million in federal and state school safety funding is being made available, with $90 million earmarked specifically for mental health counselors and resources.

The decision to allocate a large portion of this funding to mental health services underlines the growing recognition of the vital role mental health plays in creating safe and secure learning environments. A comprehensive approach to school safety goes beyond physical security measures—it also includes addressing the mental and emotional well-being of students.

Investing in mental health resources in schools is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it can help identify and support students who are struggling with mental health issues, which might otherwise go unnoticed or untreated. Early intervention can prevent these issues from escalating and negatively impacting a student’s academic performance and overall quality of life.

Secondly, mental health professionals can play a key role in fostering a positive school climate, helping to reduce bullying and other forms of aggression that can jeopardize school safety. They can also provide training for teachers and other staff members, equipping them with the skills to spot the signs of mental health problems and respond appropriately.

Thirdly, mental health resources can contribute to the development of resilience among students, helping them cope with stress, adversity, and trauma. This not only benefits individual students but also promotes a more supportive and inclusive school culture.

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The PCCD’s School Safety and Security Committee has approved a funding framework that includes $90 million for noncompetitive 2023-24 School Mental Health Grants. These grants will support the provision of school-based mental health counselors and resources for students.

Furthermore, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) will receive $5 million for the training of school-based mental health professionals and to establish certification pathways, while the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) will receive $5 million for the School Mental Health Internship Grant Program.

In addition to the focus on mental health, the funding framework allocates $18.6 million for formula-based School Safety and Security Meritorious Grants, which can be used for physical security enhancements as well as mental and behavioral health improvements. A further $32.2 million is allocated for Competitive School Safety and Security Grants, and $14.5 million for Targeted School Safety Grants for Nonpublic Schools.

The seven-week application period will close on Thursday, February 29, 2024. Noncompetitive, formula-based awards are expected to be made by March 2024, with competitive grant awards expected to be announced in April 2024.

The substantial funding being directed toward improving safety and security in Pennsylvania schools, particularly the significant investment in mental health resources, represents a comprehensive approach to creating safe, healthy learning environments. By addressing both the physical and mental aspects of safety, Pennsylvania is setting a strong foundation for the well-being and success of its students.

Questions regarding the School Safety and Security Grant Program can be sent to PCCD staff at RA-CD-SSSC@pa.gov or by visiting PCCD’s School Safety and Security webpage.

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