The United States Department of Education awarded the UC Santa Barbara Gevirtz Graduate School of Education and three other universities a four-year $10.4 million federal contract to launch a national center working toward mental health initiatives.
The center is intended to expand the national school-based mental health workforce of school psychologists, social workers, school counselors and other psychological practitioners, according to a press release sent by the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education (GGSE).
Alongside University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of South Florida and University of Iowa, UCSB will establish the center titled Mental Health Evaluation, Training, Research, and Innovation Center for Schools — dubbed M.E.T.R.I.C.S. — as part of the national mental health initiative.
The UCSB team includes affiliates of GGSE’s Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology — professor Erin Dowdy, distinguished professor emeritus Michael Furlong, assistant teaching professor Jon Goodwin and assistant teaching professor Arlene Ortiz.
“We are excited to collaborate with other leading institutions and scholars focused explicitly on school mental health. We recognize the tremendous need, both locally and nationally, to invest significant energy to improve the well-being of children and youth in the place they are most likely to receive mental health services,” Dowdy said in the press release.
The initiative follows the U.S. Department of Education reporting an increase in mental health concerns among university students since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the press release read.
“At UCSB, we hope to shift the conversation away from a focus on distress, towards an emphasis on wellness and student strengths,” Goodwin said in the press release. “We hope that our work on METRICS will be focused on prevention and early intervention, prior to students having significant symptoms of distress.”
The establishment of M.E.T.R.I.C.S. also follows GGSE receiving a $5.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education last spring. This initiative trained school psychologists and other professionals to promote justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in mental health services at schools.
“METRICS will contribute to the national initiative to strengthen school mental health services by supporting nearly 300 grants totaling more than $188 million awarded by DoE over the past two years to education agencies, school districts, and universities,” the press release read.
A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the Oct. 26, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.