UT Tyler Receives Over $1.3 Million From US Department of Education
Grant will support student mental health programming across area school districts
TYLER (January 26, 2023) – The University of Texas at Tyler has been awarded more than $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s Mental Health Service Professionals Demonstration program to help support the mental health needs of students in East Texas district schools.
The program was recently authorized by U.S. Senator John Cornyn’s (R-TX) Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which was signed into law in June 2022 and addresses specific concerns that have led to violence in schools, including the need for additional mental health services.
“We are extremely grateful to Sen. Cornyn and the Department of Education for this funding, which helps UT Tyler support mental health care for the young people of East Texas,” said UT Tyler President Kirk A. Calhoun, MD, FACP.
According to Mental Health America, more than 73 percent of youth in Texas who have significant mental health needs, such as depression, remain untreated. Additional research has shown that there is a critical need to address mental health needs in youth, as unmet mental health issues can significantly impact their academic achievement and ability to develop, especially those youth in poverty-stricken and rural areas.
UT Tyler Department of Psychology and Counseling faculty Citlali Molina, PhD, assistant professor and school counseling program coordinator, and Erin West, PhD, associate professor of counseling, serve as grant primary co-investigators and project co-directors.
“This project will allow UT Tyler’s counseling programs to strengthen and build sustainable infrastructures to support students’ required fieldwork, place more qualified practitioners in high need schools and continue expanding these services across the region beyond the grant funding period,” said Molina. “Given the significant mental health challenges faced by East Texas youth and the barriers they face for accessing treatment, schools are their best hope for getting the care they need.”
Through the five-year grant, UT Tyler will partner with the Brownsboro, Tyler and Winona Independent School Districts, in a developed “Mental Health Matters” project, to enhance their capacity to provide mental health services to their students. Each year, the project will place UT Tyler graduate-level school counseling and clinical mental health counseling students or counselors in training, or CITs, at 15 high-needs schools within the three partnering local education agencies. The collaborative project will meet the DoED program’s absolute priority of increasing the number
of high quality and diverse mental health professionals to address the lack mental health services in schools.
“No parent should fear for the safety of their student when they drop them off at school, and no student should be afraid when they walk into the classroom,” Sen. Cornyn said in a recent announcement about the funding. “In the aftermath of the tragedy in Uvalde, I’m grateful that meaningful solutions are starting to be delivered through this funding to prevent violence, provide training to school personnel and students, and hire additional mental health professionals in Texas schools.”
Molina joined the UT Tyler faculty in 2021. A certified professional school counselor and a licensed professional counselor in Texas with over 14 years of experience in public education, she has published on topics related to school counseling interventions, career counseling and addictions. Her experiences as a public-school educator and school counselor led her to study teacher-student relationships. Molina holds a PhD in counseling from the University of North Texas.
West joined UT Tyler in 2016. She is a licensed professional counselor in both Texas and Ohio as well as a certified professional school counselor. As the clinical mental health counseling practicum and internship program coordinator at UT Tyler, she was instrumental in developing an internship program that benefits both the university and Whitehouse Independent School District. West holds a PhD in counselor education from Kent State University.
For more information about the project, contact Molina at firstname.lastname@example.org or West at email@example.com.
With a mission to improve educational and health care outcomes for East Texas and beyond, UT Tyler offers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs to 10,000 students. UT Tyler recently merged with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (now known as UT Tyler Health Science Center). Through its alignment with UT Tyler Health Science Center (HSC) and UT Health East Texas, UT Tyler has unified these entities to serve Texas with quality education, cutting-edge research and excellent patient care. Classified by Carnegie as a doctoral research institution and by U.S. News & World Report as a national university, UT Tyler has campuses in Tyler, Longview, Palestine and Houston.