Farmington schools included in $9 million grant to improve mental health services

Farmington is one of three school districts selected statewide

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • The New Mexico Public Education Department awarded five-year grants to Farmington Municipal Schools, Santa Fe Public Schools and Socorro Consolidated Schools worth almost $9 million, according to a New Mexico Department of Public Education news release.
  • The funding comes as part of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education).
  • For Farmington schools, district officials told The Daily Times in a statement it is in the early stages of administering the grant.

FARMINGTON — Farmington schools will receive part of a $9 million grant to help fund mental health teams in the district as students deal with hardships and delays in receiving mental health treatment in the area.

The New Mexico Public Education Department awarded five-year grants to Farmington Municipal Schools, Santa Fe Public Schools and Socorro Consolidated Schools worth almost $9 million, according to a New Mexico Department of Public Education news release.

The funding comes as part of the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education).

About $5.3 million will be distributed in the first three years, then $1.8 million in the fourth and fifth years.

Those three districts were chosen based on several parameters including existing mental health infrastructure, location, demographics and need.

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Two statistics which were a factor were the percentage of children living in poverty and the rates of families that speak languages other than English. San Juan County has 26.3 percent of children living in poverty and 30 percent of families that speak languages other than English, according to the news release.

New Mexico Public Education Secretary-Designate Kurt Steinhaus said in the news release the department believes spending money on preventive mental health care early on in a child’s life could help prevent more extensive interventions later on.

Farmington Municipal Schools officials told The Daily Times in a statement that the district is in the early stages of administering the grant.

Gene Schmidt

“We have been working hard on building our mental health team in order to better assist students, their families and our community,” Farmington Superintendent Gene Schmidt said in a statement. "We look forward to the possibilities of increasing our programming to meet this goal.”

The infrastructure developed to assist those students during the grant period is designed to continue assisting students once the grant ends.

The grant was designed to help increase training for school and district officials. They will be trained to detect and respond to mental health issues for students, enabling them to connect the juveniles to appropriate services in the community.

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Farmington schools plans to use the funding to help address its current challenge of limited access to mental health services in the community.

When asked how district officials assess the current state of mental health for students, Farmington Municipal Schools Mental Health Advisor Debbie Murphy said the COVID-19 pandemic has created extra strain on existing mental health professionals in the area.

“Many students have experienced loss and some significant loss, this has created hardships in their lives and certainly needs more attention,” Murphy said in a statement. “Many local agencies are booked out anywhere from one week to two months for new incoming clients. This puts an even greater strain on the mental health staff within our schools.”

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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