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SALAMANCA – At-risk students in the Salamanca City School District will soon have staff that will have training to help with mental health crisis situations. A three-year, $931,666 grant will make sure the training is in place.

“We pursued this grant because of the alarming number of children, particularly in our elementary and intermediate buildings, who were displaying emerging signs of mental health-related concerns, such as chronic absenteeism, social adjustment issues and peer related conflicts,” said district Superintendent Robert Breidenstein.

The grant was awarded to the district, one of only 35 in the country to receive the funds, from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Healthy Students. Its intent is to provide for professional development and training for teachers, support staff and administrators, facilitate parental conversations and staff discussions about students. Another goal is a parental training component in dealing with students showing such warning signs as increases in attendance issues.

The district will hire a licensed social worker and an attendance monitor, and will send out requests for services for psychiatric support and consultation.

“Intervening as early as possible creates a greater chance of success and progress for the child, parents and family,” said Mary Elizabeth Koch, director of curriculum and acting principal of Seneca Elementary School. “Mental health issues, if left untreated, can be debilitating and create serious problems for years.”

Breidenstein said none of the student populations contains a larger amount of mental health problems than another.

“This grant will enable the district to begin to address deeply rooted psychological issues that severely impact learning, achievement and student performance,” he said.

With the grant having a three-year life, plans are in place for the district to absorb the program as a normal part of the budget. Failing that, Breidenstein said, the district would look to the Department of Education to extend grant funding.