Six Agencies Win State Grants to Tackle Substance-use, Mental-health Issues in High Schools

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration announced $4.9 million in grants to six agencies for the creation of evidence-based, data-driven teams to respond to co-occurring substance-use and mental-health issues in high schools. These teams will be embedded in high schools in 10 communities to offer intervention and treatment services and provide alternatives to school suspension for substance use.

The six agencies were selected for grant funding based on their ability to provide access to these crucial services, both in school and in the community, as well as virtually due to instances of remote and hybrid learning. The awardees are River Valley Counseling Center, providing services for Holyoke High School North Campus; the Brien Center, providing services for Monument Mountain Regional High in Great Barrington; Heywood Hospital, providing services for Athol High School, Gardner High School, Gardner Academy of Learning and Tech, Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange, Narragansett Regional High School in Templeton, and Murdock High School in Winchendon; High Point Treatment Center, providing services for New Bedford High School; the Institute for Health and Recovery, providing services for Malden High School; and North Suffolk Mental Health, providing services for Revere High School.

These grant awards will ensure these agencies are prepared to offer services to students suffering from co-occurring substance-use and mental-health issues. The programs will respond to students’ and their families’ needs, increase collaboration with schools, and provide support to students in crisis.

“Disruptions to in-school learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a social and emotional toll on many students, and especially those most at risk for substance use and mental-health issues,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, who directs the state’s COVID-19 Command Center. “This grant will allow much-needed resources to reach students remotely and offer a mental-health-driven alternative to suspensions.”

The grant will be distributed over the course of six years, with each program receiving $136,864 per year, for a total of $4.9 million over the life of the award. Funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s State Opioid Response grant, the grant will serve to support the Commonwealth-wide adolescent-addiction workforce that is specifically trained and certified to provide targeted substance-use interventions and treatment to at-risk students, reducing their risk of developing an opioid or substance-use disorder. These timely awards will support Massachusetts schools’ efforts to effectively respond to student substance-use and mental-health concerns, as access to high-potency marijuana products increases, rates of on-campus vaping surge, and the overall perception of harm associated with adolescent substance use decreases.

“Massachusetts is taking action to reinforce protections for children affected by substance use and mental-health issues in these unprecedented times,” said Deirdre Calvert, director of the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services at the Department of Public Health. “This grant program will ensure that at-risk youth receive the services they need to prevent substance use, help combat the opioid epidemic, and support families during the COVID-19 state of emergency.”