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Douglas County receives new funding for school mental healthcare

Oregon Classroom WISE will teach parents, educators and community members strategies to address struggling students.
Kristyna Wentz-Graff
The $6.8 million dollar grant will fund the education of new mental health professionals in schools and help retain existing staff members.

A Douglas County education service district will receive nearly $7 million to train new mental health professionals.

The Douglas ESD lends behavioral staff to local schools. Currently, it has 12 employees who provide mental health services for nearly 7,000 students.

Behavioral Health Services Director Amy-Rose Wootton says the area needs more providers. Youth in Douglas County report higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation and substance abuse than the state average.

The new grant will give full-ride scholarships and jobs in the district to graduate students studying counseling. Wootton says the majority of the 15-person cohort will be LGBTQ+, BIPOC or from the local community. It is currently looking for applicants.

“There's a lot of amazing people in our community that want to pursue higher levels of education. And through this grant will be able to break down the barriers that they're experiencing.”

The grant is one piece of a larger initiative from the U.S. Department of Education, who gave millions of dollars to three additional districts in Oregon, including Portland Public Schools. Funding will continue through 2025.

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.