Laconia school superintendent tracks progress of $2.15M behavioral health grant

LACONIA — Superintendent of Schools Terri Forsten updated the Laconia School Board last night on progress on a federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) grant that will bring $2.15 million to the city over the next four years for a variety of programs designed to promote positive behavior, decrease drug abuse and cope with school bullying.
Forsten said that the governor and Executive Council will be taking up the grant request for the School District's program later this month and that planning is already ongoing on how the grant will be used in the city.
She said the School District is looking for a project manager to oversee the program and hopes to have one in place by the time a national conference on the program on March 4-5.
The grants are designed to support state and community partnerships to create safe and supportive schools and communities by building partnerships among educational, behavioral health, and criminal/juvenile justice systems.
The Safe Schools/Healthy Students State Program develops and implements evidence-based programs, effective policies, and innovative strategies that address youth violence and promote the wellness of children, youth, and families. The grants will support work to increase the number of children and youth who have access to behavioral health services; decrease the number of students who abuse substances; increase supports for early childhood development; improve school climates; and reduce the number of students who are exposed to violence.
She said that the state received an $ 8.6 million grant last fall which is being administered by state Department of Health and Human Services and is being split by three school districts, Laconia, Concord and Rochester with 75 percent of the money going to the three school districts.
Forsten said that a needs assessment will be conducted and a comprehensive plan will be developed which will hopefully be in place before September when it will be implemented in connection with a number of community partners, including the school district, mental health agencies, police and the justice system.