PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced additional funding for mental health resources at public schools Monday afternoon.
Hoffman said $21 million will bring 140 new school counselors and social workers to Arizona's public schools. Hoffman said this money will supplement the School Safety Grant Program that was passed by the legislature and implemented by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE).
The program brought more than 260 social and emotional support professionals to schools with the goal of reducing Arizona's student-to-school-counselor ratio, which was the highest in the country. Hoffman said despite these gains, the high demand still left many schools on the waitlist.
Hoffman said the ADE will allocate a portion of its federal recovery money to fully fund the counselor and social worker waitlists. ADE will be able to fund 71 school counselor and 69 school social worker positions to schools for two years. These schools are in communities from across 10 counties that Hoffman says have been waiting for nearly two years to receive funding for these positions.
"Over the last year, the social and emotional needs of our students have risen to the forefront of my conversations with teachers, parents and even lawmakers. After a genuinely traumatic year, I’ve heard clearly that the social-emotional services offered by our public schools are critical to student wellbeing," Hoffman said. "By supplementing the School Safety Grant Program with federal relief funds, we are providing real solutions and resources that will have a direct impact on school safety, the social-emotional well-being of our students, and the overall health of our communities."
Hoffman said that more needs to be done to provide mental health support to Arizona students. Hoffman called on lawmakers for additional support as the state still has a higher than recommended student to counselor ratio.