The Socorro Independent School District and Project Vida Health Center recently launched a Community Mental Health Grant Program in three high schools and their feeder campuses.
“We are honored to be working with Project Vida Health Center and humbled to be the first school district in the region to reap the benefits of this grant and expand the services to hundreds of students in our schools,” said SISD Superintendent José Espinoza, Ed.D.
“With this program, we are working together to listen to our children, to watch over them daily, to give them help right on the spot, or to be able to direct them to assistance with other agencies, if necessary.”
The program has been implemented through the Community Mental Health Grant, an $800,000 award donated to the health center from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
The five-year grant is the only one of its kind to be awarded in the El Paso region and aims to eliminate barriers for students and families to receive behavioral health services and provide easy access to services from Project Vida Health Center at the schools.
The program serves students at Montwood, Pebble Hills and Socorro high schools and will serve the feeder schools in those areas, as well. The program started last year with successful implementation of services by Project Vida Health Center at Eastlake High School and Desert Wind School.
As part of the district’s proactive commitment to Keep SISD Safe, the goal is to expand the Community Mental Health Grant Program services to all high schools and feeder areas in the district.
Tammi Mackeben, SISD’s guidance and counseling director, said it is highly beneficial and important to have access to the behavioral health services directly on campuses.
“There can be many barriers to our students’ educational learning and one of those is their emotional health,” Mackeben said. “So, providing a service in our schools helps to make that barrier a little bit smaller.”
Along with Dr. Espinoza and Mackeben, Project Vida Health Center leaders, other social and emotional health partners, and SISD administrators, principals, counselors and staff attended a special ceremony at Pebble Hills High School to celebrate the program launch.
“The fact that Socorro ISD openly embraced this initiative says a lot about the district,” said Aida Ponce, chief wellness and outreach officer for Project Vida. “The district really wants to help students’ wellness and well-being. We see that there is a necessity to address that and that is why we started this program.”
Carmen Crosse, SISD’s assistant superintendent of secondary education, said the district does not shy away from things like emotional health.
“We know there is a need,” Crosse said. “We want to help our students. This program is about supporting our kids at all levels.”
The Community Mental Health Grant Program is supervised by a project manager and project director and promoted and sustained by an in-school outreach facilitator. A Project Vida Health Center navigator provides students and their families access to behavioral health services as needed from Project Vida Health Center or other community agencies.
The innovative program gives counselors more support to provide early intervention access to behavioral health services for students and families. The grant also allows more students in Team SISD to benefit from mental health services with ease and convenience.
“We know that if our students don’t feel safe emotionally, it is very difficult for them to perform academically,” Mackeben said. “So, providing this in the school makes it so students don’t have to leave school for these services. The can get these services right here on their campuses.”
Pebble Hills Principal Melissa Parham knows the importance of making sure students have overall good health to succeed.
“We will continue to watch our kids, watch for signs,” Parham said. “Now, we can get them the help they may need here. Honestly, we have hit the jackpot with this program.”
The programs were announced in October. To view a gallery of the event, click here.