The Austin Independent School District has received a $4.48 million grant from the Criminal Justice Division of the Office of the Governor to find mental health services for elementary school children and their families who've been impacted by crime.
This is the first time a school district in Texas has ever received funding from this source.
Twenty-two elementary school campuses, that feed into LBJ, Lanier, and Akins high schools, are going to have two staff members each, dedicated to delivering therapeutic services to students and families. These funds are from the federal Victims of Crime Assistance Act of 1984.
According to a 2012 study from Dell Children's Medical Center, The schools chosen are within the "east Austin crescent" pattern of high childhood maltreatment. The study revealed that high-crime neighborhoods, lack of transportation, language and challenges navigating support systems are some of the factors that can prevent children and families from getting the help they need.
Governor Greg Abbott said, "This grant will help ensure that these young students' lives are not defined by the crimes they have experienced, but with the right help, move on to be happy and productive."
"By providing mental health services on campus, we are able to identify, support, and efficiently provide clinical treatment for our students experiencing a variety of mental health issues," said Tracy Spinner, AISD assistant director of comprehensive health services.
The school staff at AISD already have daily contact with the young victims and were the first ones made aware of the trauma-impacted behaviors. They believe that giving educators and the criminal justice system immediate referral avenues can transition children towards restoration faster.
The district has received national and state recognition for their work in the mental health area.