Initiatives particularly significant as May is Mental Health Awareness Month
TAMPA, Fla. (May 2, 2023) – Two separate projects led by faculty in the University of South Florida College of Education and College of Behavioral and Community Sciences are being funded by a combined $8 million from the U.S. Department of Education to address mental health in Tampa Bay K-12 students.
Stacy-Ann January, associate professor in the Department of Educational and Psychological Studies, is leading efforts to enhance the capacity and effectiveness of school psychologists by helping schools adopt a framework for mental health assessments and intervention techniques. Through Project TIERS, which stands for “Targeted and Intensive Emotional and Relational Support,” USF will partner with local elementary schools in greatest need of assistance.
It expands upon USF’s school psychology program, in which 21 graduate students will spend the next five years working in local schools to identify students in need of support and tailor their services based on the intensity of their situation. January will then share what they learned with school psychologists across the country.
“Florida is three times above the recommended ratio for school psychologists and has just one psychologist per 1,856 students,” January said. “Impoverished communities tend to have less access to mental health providers, which has been exacerbated in the last few years due to the COVID pandemic. This project can be a great resource to these communities.”
In the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences, several faculty members are working with the Hillsborough, Hernando and Manatee school districts to launch Project MABAS, which stands for “Mental Health Applied Behavior Analysis Social Work.”
Project MABAS, also funded by a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, will help diversify the school-based mental health services workforce by enhancing the pipeline of behavior analysts and social workers. Forty USF graduate students from diverse backgrounds enrolled in the applied behavior analysis or social work programs will provide integrated behavioral and mental health services in high-need schools, helping improve social-emotional, behavioral, and educational outcomes.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 70 percent of public schools report seeing a dramatic increase in demand for mental health services due to traumatic events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, community violence and adverse childhood experiences. However, only about half of the schools report having the capacity to effectively provide mental health services to students in need. This has contributed to behavioral issues – which tend to hamper a student’s ability to succeed in school.
“The disruptions to routines, relationships and the learning environment have led to increased stress and trauma, social isolation, and anxiety that can have both immediate and long-term adverse impacts,” said Catia Cividini-Motta, principal investigator and associate director of the Applied Behavior Analysis program. “Educators and school personnel play a vital role in providing mental health and well-being support, helping advance educational opportunities by creating conditions for students to fully engage in learning.”
USF students enrolled in Project MABAS and Project TIERS will receive tuition support and a stipend. In turn, they will have the training and skills needed to help thousands of children throughout their careers.
To view this story on the USF Newsroom website, click here.
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida, a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success, generates an annual economic impact of more than $6 billion. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.