School districts across New York State can apply for more than $100 million in grants now available to address pandemic learning loss and to support mental health, Governor Kathy Hochul announced Thursday.
“I’m proud to announce that we’ll make $108 million available to deal with pandemic learning loss and also expand mental health support system systems and services to our kids,” Hochul said. “The effects of the pandemic on our students were devastating and irreversible. That’s why we’re making historic investments to address learning loss and expand mental health support in our schools.”
There are two grants, the Mental Health Recover from COVID School (RECOVS) Program Grant and the Learning Loss RECOVS Grant, that schools can apply for. The state is allocating $108.3 million total — $100 million for COVID-19 pandemic learning loss and another $8.3 million for school-based mental health clinics. The state will award $50 million in funding over the course of two years.
Supporting student mental health
Hochul pointed to a major theme of the Youth Mental Health Summit held this year in June: the need for more mental health professionals. The governor shared at today’s announcement her experience discussing mental health with a group of students in The Bronx during the statewide mental health listening tour with middle and high schoolers.
“I was in The Bronx sitting with a group of teenagers and I was a little surprised,” Hochul said. “They would tell you, ‘We’re still feeling this. We wake up scared, not sure if there’s going to be another pandemic. Is this going to happen again?’ And they know they need services.”
School-based mental health clinics were “frequently mentioned during the listening sessions by students, parents, caregivers and mental health advocates,” per the state’s press office.
The Mental Health RECOVS Grant — $100 million in total funding — is available for schools, especially high-needs districts, to expand access for students to school-based mental health professionals, as well as programs and services that promote mental health and wellness.
“It was not something you expected when you were growing up that you need a mental health professional in school, but school districts now need this,” Hochul said at today’s announcement. “It’s now as basic as having a reading or writing teacher.”
The mental health practices implemented should be “culturally, linguistically and trauma responsive while promoting student diversity, equity, and inclusion,” according to the Hochul’s press office.
“By pinpointing where students have fallen behind and getting them the mental health resources they need, this funding will help put New York students back on the path towards success,” Hochul said.
The state also announced its plans to create new school-based mental health clinics and issued a request for applications. The state will cover up to $25,000 in start-up costs for New York State Office of Mental Health-licensed providers to create new school-based mental health clinic satellites. The funding could also go towards supporting recently established school-based mental health clinic satellites.
An additional $20,000 will be used to establish mental health clinics in high-needs school districts, where more than 50% of the students are economically disadvantaged.
“Where the kids are hit the hardest, we need to lift them up fastest,” Hochul said.
Ann Sullivan, commissioner for the New York State Office of Mental Health, pointed to the 1,000 mental health clinics already developed in schools across New York State.
“This investment continues our commitment to New York State’s young people,” Sullivan said in a statement. “Providing services directly in schools increases access, promotes coordinated care, and helps reduce stigma, all of which lead to better health outcomes for young people.”
Bronx Assemblymember Michael R. Benedetto (AD-82) expressed his concern over studies pointing to major learning loss and post-pandemic emotional trauma suffered by students across New York. He shared his praise to “Governor Hochul for
‘You cannot assume they’ll automatically catch up on their own’
New York State’s younger students, particularly fourth graders, faced significantly lower performance scores in 2022, compared to pre-pandemic scores, data from The National Assessment of Educational Progress pointed to. Both the losses in New York’s fourth grade reading and math scores were double the national average at that time.
The state’s learning losses triggered a report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli earlier this year in March.
DiNapoli pointed to how”academic losses were greater for younger students, and issued his statement about the report: “School districts must act quickly to take full advantage of available resources to help students that are most in need get caught up, before time runs out.”
The Learning Loss RECOVS Grant will provide $8.3 million in funding for schools to hire more teachers and professionals who specialize in academic recovery to counter learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant will support school staff and students to identify any learning losses, and implement practices to address those losses.
“Our teachers have been overworked, overburdened, and understandably burned out,” Hochul said. “They need our support now as well.”
Hochul called the learning loss a “hemorrhage” at Thursday’s announcement and reaffirmed the state’s mission to pinpoint where children have fallen behind and how to get them specialized assistance to catch up.
“The phrase “getting back to normal” sounds good,” Hochul said. “It’s aspirational, though, because we’re not there yet. This is just a first step, and when kids fell behind, you cannot assume that they’ll automatically catch up on their own.”
Individual school districts or the consortium of school districts through the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) are eligible to apply for both grants.
Application submissions are due by Aug. 18, 2023, at 5 p.m. More information and application details can be found here.