$10K grant to boost mental health programs in schools

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HANCOCK COUNTY — Christmas came early for the Hancock Health Foundation, which received a $10,000 grant from Duke Energy this month to support mental health programming in local schools.

The Duke Energy Foundation announced the grant on Monday, when nine agencies received a combined $255,000 to address substance abuse and mental health needs impacting 18 communities statewide.

In Hancock County, the funding will enable Healthy365, a department of Hancock Health, to enhance and expand its mental health and substance use prevention and early intervention programs in schools throughout the county.

“This includes expanding suicide prevention training, hosting mental health awareness events, and providing educational materials and resources,” said Allyson Smith, Hancock Health Foundation manager.

While Healthy365 has many funding sources, Smith said it’s the foundation that primarily raises funds for programs and services that are under-funded, like the school-based prevention programs.

The Duke Energy grant will go a long way in ensuring the sustainability of such programs in all four Hancock County school districts, she said, including suicide prevention training, counseling and peer-led mental health support.

Countywide, Hancock Health has already trained teachers in all grade levels in QPR suicide prevention training, which stands for question, persuade and refer.

The nonprofit introduced RemedyLIVE, a 24-hour mental health call center, to all four county high schools a few years ago.

Hancock Health has also facilitated peer-led mental health clubs in local schools and hosted multiple sessions of Rise Above It, a free emotional health and wellness workshop for the public.

“We also have some of our social workers who work directly in the schools providing counseling, and we provide mental health resources to teachers and staff like our mental health pocket guides,” Smith said.

Of all the school programs, Smith said Duke Energy’s grant will be used to bring back RemedyLIVE and to start training high school students in QPR now that all the teachers have been trained.

Amanda Hinkle, Healthy Community manager and System of Care coordinator for Healthy365, said all four of the county’s school districts are receptive to QPR training in the schools for students and are each establishing a plan to facilitate it.

“The first step is to pilot the training with a couple classes in each high school in the spring, then incorporate it into the curriculum the next school year. Some schools are thinking about having their health teacher trained in teaching QPR so outsiders don’t have to come in” for training, Hinkle said.

All four districts are also supportive of the RemedyLIVE program, which is based in Fort Wayne. “This program would target the school teachers and staff as well as the students. We’re hoping to get this scheduled to happen in the spring before graduation,” Hinkle said.

Both she and Smith were thrilled to learn that Hancock Health was among the nine Duke Energy grant recipients.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a rise in mental health and substance use disorders across Indiana,” said Stan Pinegar, president of Duke Energy Indiana, in a press release this week.

“I have personally heard from our community leaders that more needs to be done, and we’re joining the fight by supporting the critical work of organizations that are providing pathways to prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery services.”

The grants will support a wide range of initiatives to create and expand mental health and substance use services across the state.

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