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Woodland Centers receives state grant to provide school-based mental health services

WILLMAR — Woodland Centers, a nonprofit mental health organization based in Willmar, has received a $1.7 million, five-year grant to increase children’s access to mental health services.

The Minnesota Department of Health has announced a total of $45.4 million in grants to 36 mental health organizations across the state.

The grant to Woodland Centers will help provide services for students in the Montevideo, Willmar, Eden Valley-Watkins, Litchfield, MACCRAY, Yellow Medicine East, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City, BOLD and Lac qui Parle Valley school districts.

Greater Minnesota Family Services, based in Willmar, received a $1.65 million grant to serve a number of districts in southern and central Minnesota.

The grants are expected to help provide school-linked mental health services to about 35,000 students in more than 800 school districts. The grants will reach children in nearly all of Minnesota’s counties. Many children will receive services for the first time.

“By connecting effective mental health services with schools, we reach children who have never accessed mental health services,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson in a news release. “Whether they live in the Twin Cities or Greater Minnesota, through school-linked programs we see that they get the help they need, when they need it and where it is most convenient for them and their family.”

The $45.4 million represents a commitment Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature to double schools’ capacity for mental health early intervention and treatment services.

“When a child is struggling with life’s many challenges, it is critical our schools have the tools necessary to provide support,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said. “Without that support, students can suffer greatly, often have a higher risk of depression, dropping out, and are more likely to suffer from substance abuse.”