• Baylor researchers earn $2.5 million grant to prep mental health providers for local schools

    Carrie Arroyo and Mary Zane Nelson

    There’s no shortage of challenges that can impact a child’s mental health — but unfortunately, school districts often face a shortage of qualified mental health professionals to help meet those needs.

    Baylor researchers in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work are working to bridge this gap in Central Texas.

    Carrie Arroyo, Mary Zane Nelson (BSW ’08, MSW ’10) and Dr. Stephanie Boddie recently earned a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to prepare licensed mental health providers for work in schools — and they’ll partner with schools in Waco ISD and Transformation Waco (a non-profit charter partner with Waco ISD) to bring this to fruition.

    “As we partner with local schools, we see the need for mental health services, and we’re grateful for the openness and advocacy on the part of our local partners to create these mental health positions,” Nelson says. “The data shows, and we see, just how many children are having mental health struggles. To keep a child from falling through the cracks, potentially, it’s helpful to have specialists who can serve in the school and get children the care they need.”

    Four Waco area schools will benefit from Baylor students pursuing master’s degrees in social work, serving children directly in those schools as they pursue their degree. The grant will fund the development of a school-based mental health training and certificate program, along with Spanish-language training to enable the interns to serve children whose first language is Spanish at the highest level. Special focus will be placed on creating opportunities for interns from Central Texas to be trained and to serve in their home area. The five-year grant will provide for additional positions as the grant goes on.

    Arroyo, a senior lecturer of social work, has long built partnerships with local schools, and the grant allows her and Nelson (pictured above) to serve as project directors. Boddie will provide regular evaluation of the program to ensure its effectiveness.

    Sic ’em, Baylor mental health providers in schools!