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$3.5M in funding for mental health programs awarded to Niagara Falls City Schools

The money will help expand existing programs and fund paid internships for graduate students in mental health fields.

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. — A Western New York school district is getting millions of dollars for mental health support. The Niagara Falls City School District just received a five-year grant worth millions of dollars to address the growing issue.

The federal funding will help expand programs already offered in the district and help local grad students train for jobs in mental health.

The $3.5 million won't only impact students at the high school, it will also help elementary school students and middle school students.

Jayla Scott is a student athlete trained in trauma-informed care. She is part of what's called the Champion Team at the high school.

"This means we learn about trauma so that we can recognize it, understand it better, and learn how to self-regulate. The $3.5 million grant announced by Congressman Higgins and Superintendent Mark Laurrie is life-changing for students and families in Niagara Falls City School District," Scott said.

This federal grant will allow the Champion Team to expand beyond the high school.

"We want to grow it, and we want to build a steady pipeline coming up from sixth grade so that we don't have to retrain kids every year," Laurrie said.

The funding will also prepare students for careers in mental health by creating 21 paid internships in mental health fields for University at Buffalo and Niagara University grad students. Laurrie says this will help address the big need for these kinds of services.

"Many of our parents, and this is not disparagement against the parents, reach out to us and say I need help, what can you do? I need help, what can you do? I need resources, what can you do? Our staff, we have a social studies teacher here, his role, from when I first met him as a teacher, has changed dramatically. He not only has to teach social studies, but he's got to make sure the kids are alright in his classroom," Laurrie said.

Laurrie also announced Friday afternoon that the district's graduation rate went from 67 percent in 2019 to 83.5 percent. Laurrie says mental health programs helped boost that number.

The school district has already started interviewing some of the people who will be hired through this grant.

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