The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 24, 2012

School district receives federal grant

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin School District has been awarded a grant of $818,185 from the U.S. Department of Education under the School Emergency Response to Violence program.

The grant will go toward funding about five more counselors, three case managers and an intervention program to help students with mental health issues related to the tornado of May 2011.

“The No. 1 thing is the weather,” said Lisa Orem, director of special services for the Joplin School District. “That memory of the storm is still there, and that puts them on edge where they need counselors to pull out the children and reassure them.

“We have seen the children have been very successful in working in small groups with counselors and caseworkers, and that’s one of reasons we wanted to continue this.”

In addition to general anxiety about the weather, Orem said, some children have been hiding under their desks or have had crying outbursts when it becomes cloudy and dark, and begins to rain.

“(They’re having) those types of emotions that they need to be able to express, but they need to learn how to cope with those,” Orem said.

The funding also will go toward support services for staff members who are experiencing compassion fatigue. That happens when staff members are “personally experiencing trauma and, at the same time, they are expected to continually care for and support the mental and behavioral needs of their students,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited the school district last fall and lauded administrators for their work after the tornado.

The Department of Education also awarded the district an Immediate Services Project grant of about $50,000 after the storm to help the district pay for mental health support staff.

“We have had the privilege of having the Ozark Center therapists and caseworkers doing another SERV grant in the last year,” Orem said. “It’s been very successful, and we want to make sure it was ongoing to sustain services to children.”

Orem said the grant is for one year, and the district will continue to look for additional funding to continue the counseling services.

“It’s so important to our children to have these services,” she said. “Their mental health is so important to their schoolwork and their livelihood, and their families. We need to make it a priority to make sure children have resources for mental health in our schools.”

This year, the district implemented suicide prevention and awareness training for staff members and students. Orem said suicide statistics for adults in the area have increased since the tornado, and officials are keeping a close watch on signs among students.

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