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University of Missouri Opening National Center for Rural Mental Health

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Credit Adam Procter / Flickr

The University of Missouri will be establishing a National Center for Rural Mental Health, the university announced today. The center will be funded by a $10 million grant from the US Department of Education.

The center will benefit rural schools in Missouri, Virginia and Montana. Staff and researchers hope to help at least 110 rural schools across those states by creating a database of information and provide a training system to support the mental health needs of their students.

Wendy Reinke is a professor in the Department of Psychology and the lead investigator on the grant. She says one important step is applying gathered information and applying it to rural schools.

“These rural schools are unique in so many ways and I think figuring out sort of what we know works now in some of our suburban school districts and how we can map them, onto the challenges faced by rural schools, that have unique circumstances, is an important next step.”

The center will give rural educators access to research to improve student outcomes. The “early identification system,” a comprehensive survey which helps to identify mental health issues in students at an early stage, is one example of this research. Reinke and her team collected the survey data from K-12 students and faculty within Boone County.

“The first step is having a kick-off meeting where we invite superintendents, different leaders in rural communities to the University of Missouri, where we talk about what the project is and get their perspective on what their needs are so that we can build the best types of supports and resources,” Reinke said.

The research team will assess whether or not schools that implemented the surveys and training practices saw improved social, behavioral and emotional outcomes from Students. The grant will last until 2024.

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