Grants to School Districts Aim to Address Mental-health Impacts of Gun Violence

BOSTON — The Healey-Driscoll administration announced it has selected eight Massachusetts schools or school districts to receive funding to support programs aimed at addressing the effects of gun violence, particularly the associated behavioral-health impacts that can devastate students, staff, schools, and communities long after a violent incident occurs.

Chosen in a competitive process led by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in consultation with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Mental Health, the recipients will each receive a three-year grant ranging from $35,000 to $100,000 per year to implement strategies to prioritize mental health, well-being, and resilience in the wake of gun violence and related trauma. In addition to expanding mental-health services, the grants will support the creation of trauma-informed, safe, and supportive school environments that can help prevent violence, reduce behavioral-health inequities, and improve outcomes overall.

“Gun violence associated with schools and school-aged students has a profound and long-lasting impact on those individuals and communities involved in these tragic events,” Gov. Maura Healey said. “The Healey-Driscoll administration is committed to supporting programs and initiatives that address mental-health challenges in the aftermath of any such gunviolence incidents. Here in Massachusetts, we’re committed to having strategies and plans in place that focus on mental health while also being prepared with thoughtful and comprehensive physical security plans.”

The eight school districts and schools chosen to receive three-year grants are Fitchburg Public Schools, Veritas Preparatory Charter School, Springfield Public Schools, Fall River Public Schools, Medway Public Schools, Ayer Shirley Regional School District, Haverhill Public Schools, and Northshore Education Consortium.

These recipients submitted proposals with ideas that included creating and supporting student-led mental-health clubs; defining specific wellness spaces or calming areas within the school environment; hiring mental-health clinicians to expand access to needed services; having all staff undergo training focused on building and maintaining trauma-sensitive schools; establishing and supporting LGBTQ+ alliance clubs at middle schools and high schools; expanding the in-school health curriculum to include such topics as bullying, community violence, dating violence, self-care, self-esteem, self-worth, and suicide/self-harm; and expanding and promoting peer-mentoring programs to foster a sense of belonging, connection, and student leadership.

The state funding allocated for this grant program is approximately $650,000 per year, for a three-year total of nearly $2 million. The funds come from a reserve established in 2022 — the Behavioral Health Supports and Resources in Schools to Respond to Gun Violence and Related Trauma grant opportunity — which is administered by the Department of Public Health in consultation with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Mental Health. The funding will run through December 2026.

“Gun violence has devastating impacts on young people’s behavioral and mental health, with a greater burden falling on kids in communities most affected by structural racism and economic and social inequities,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh said. “We are excited to fund eight school systems that developed promising and creative ways to help students heal from the trauma of gun violence in their communities.”