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Missoula County Public Schools receives $393,000 grant to implement Montana Behavior Initiative, provide more services for students with mental health needs

December 1, 2011View for printing

Missoula County Public Schools has received a $393,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will be used to support the implementation of the Montana Behavioral Initiative (MBI) into all MCPS elementary, middle and high schools; hire an additional school counselor and two social workers to enhance student services; and create behavioral and prevention programs to better assist disadvantaged students across the district.

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MBI is a statewide initiative that assists educators, parents and other community members in developing the attitudes, skills and support systems that are necessary to ensure that each student, regardless of his/her ability or disability, leaves public education and enters the community with social and academic competence. MBI is based on the "positive behavior interventions and supports" model, which integrates a range of intervention strategies that are designed to prevent students' problem behaviors while teaching them "socially appropriate" alternative behaviors. The initiative is supported by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

This grant will allow each MCPS school - there are 17 in total - to develop a site-based MBI team which will then create a framework for MBI implementation at its school. In addition, the grant will allow school and agency mental health professionals to be trained to deliver Cognitive Behavior therapy to assist students experiencing intensive emotional and behavioral difficulties, and tie these intervention plans into existing school-wide systems of support.

The additional school counselor and social workers hired will work with students at Lowell, Hawthorne, Franklin elementaries, and C.S. Porter Middle School. These schools serve some of the highest numbers of disadvantaged students in the district, as defined by the number of students that receive meal benefits through the federal free and/or reduced price meal program. These schools also serve a high number of homeless students. Grant activities will create an avenue for school staff, mental health agencies, UM staff and students, to collaborate and develop a network of K-12 school mental health services for these students. All staff will be trained to better identify students who are at risk, provide effective intervention, and include parents in the process.

"Much of our focus is on prevention so kids stay in the classroom and learn. By creating positive school climates for all kids, mental health staff can do a better job working with individual students who might have more challenges," says Carol Ewen, Response to Intervention specialist and grant director.

Ewen says students facing challenges in their reading and social abilities are at higher risk for mental health issues, negative life outcomes, and for dropping out of school. "Because problem behavior and poor academic performance are intimately connected, we must develop curriculum and interventions that intelligently address both academic and social emotional learning."

Through this grant, educators will help students understand school expectations, how to cope with stress and emotions, and how to problem solve. Mental health professionals will extend lessons for students with additional needs and will reinforce appropriate behavior. In the end, kids will be spending more time enjoying their classroom and less time getting in trouble, she adds.

For more information regarding the grant, contact Ewen at 728-2400, ext. 1053, or at cewen@mcps.k12.mt.us.


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Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. Full copyright retained by the original publication. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.


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