Hillsborough County Schools receives record state funding for mental health services

The Hillsborough County School District is responding to an increased demand for mental health services from students during the pandemic.

This year the district received nearly 8 million dollars in state funding for mental health resources.

"This year we got more than we’ve ever got, so very thankful for that, and we’ve used that money very proactively to put programs in place for students so they can recognize when they need help," said Michael Kelleher, Clinical Care Supervisor said.

Some of those funds went to adding a therapist to 100 schools in addition to current counselors and social workers. Staff also partnered with community groups to develop a Mobile Response Team that helps students who are in crisis during school hours and in need of immediate assistance.

"I would say to any student if you have a problem big or small, we don’t think any problem is small. So please come, talk with an adult. We know how to help you find what you need. We’re problem solvers in education I like to say," Kelleher said.

Students like Idania Rodriguez are happy to see an increased focus on mental health. She says she struggled with the isolation of the pandemic. Now back with her classmates she realizes many of them were struggling as well.

"It’s honestly like difficult. The pandemic was hard on me. It was really hard on my family; it was really hard on a lot of my friends," Rodriguez said.

She found support through family and friends and started her own nonprofit Mental H2O Inc. to support other teens who may be struggling with mental health issues.

"This a common issue and for years it’s been going on and I realized a lot of the kids are missing that connection, that education," Rodriguez said.

The district says if you are struggling the first step is to reach out to a Student Services team member--a School Counselor, School Nurse, School Psychologist, School Social Worker--or any adult you trust.

If trusted adults or professionals are not available,  contact the National Youth Crisis Hotline at 1-800-442-4673 or 2-1-1 to talk to a person at the local Tampa Bay Crisis Hotline.