Northern Illinois schools secure $3M in mental health funding with aid from Rep. Lauren Underwood

The spending package aims to strengthen mental health resources for students, schools and communities in northern Illinois.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, speaks after she toured the semi-conductor lab Friday, Jan. 20, 2023, at the Northern Illinois University College of Engineering and Engineering Technology building in DeKalb. Underwood was visiting NIU to celebrate the university receiving $1.5 million in federal funding to upgrade its microchips manufacturing lab.

Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and schools in Bureau, Will and La Salle counties recently were awarded $3 million in federal funding to support mental health and youth crisis care services in a bid supported by U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville.

Funding will come from multiple grant assistance programs, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Mental Health Awareness and Training program, according to a news release from Underwood’s office. Aid also was grated through the U.S. Department of Public Health’s Mental Health Professionals Demonstration and School-Based Mental Health Services Programs.

“Every young person deserves access to the very best mental health care and resources that we can provide,” Underwood said in a news release. “As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I worked to secure this funding for schools in northern Illinois to train first aid responders, increase the number of school-based mental health providers and, most importantly, address our youth mental health crisis. As I begin my third term in Congress, I’m committed to strengthening mental health resources for students, schools and communities.”

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded NIU $238,961 to train school personnel, emergency first responders, law enforcement and others on how to appropriately and safely respond to people with mental health challenges and disorders, according to the release.

NIU also was awarded $961,629 from the U.S. Department of Education to support and train school-based mental health providers. At NIU, officials intend to use funding to train 24 licensed school psychologists over the next five years, according to the release.

Lewis University in Romeoville was awarded $466,308 also through the Department of Education to partner with Joliet Township High School District 204 to train 43 graduate students as school-based mental health providers, according to the release.

An additional $1.37 million was awarded to schools in La Moille, Bureau Valley, DePue, Hall High School, Princeton High School and Ottawa High school districts, according to the release. The funds are meant to help schools hire and retain more mental health professionals. Schools districts expect to use the funding to increase the number of mental health providers for students by 55%.