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Expanding Mental Health Services in High-Need Schools: The Mi-ELSiS Program

In recent years, the importance of mental health in schools has gained widespread recognition. The well-being of students, both academically and emotionally, has become a top priority for educators, parents, and policymakers alike. To address the growing need for school-based mental health services in high-need areas, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded a substantial grant to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) through the Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program. This grant, totaling $4.5 million over five years, aims to bolster the number of mental health service providers in schools facing significant challenges by hiring and retaining mental health service providers for long-term employment.


In response to this grant, the Michigan Department of Education has launched the Michigan Earn, Learn, and Serve in Schools (Mi-ELSiS) program. Mi-ELSiS is a groundbreaking initiative designed to address the shortage of mental health professionals in high-need school districts across Michigan. This innovative program not only benefits graduate-level trainees but also seeks to create lasting positive change within these underserved communities.


Empowering Graduate Students with a Purpose

At the heart of Mi-ELSiS is a commitment to providing graduate-level trainees in the fields of School Social Work, School Psychology, and School Counseling with a unique opportunity to make a meaningful impact. Participants in the program are offered a $20,000 stipend, enabling them to pursue their educational goals while giving back to their communities. In exchange for this financial support, Mi-ELSiS trainees are required to dedicate a minimum of one year working in high-need schools after training is complete. This empowers both students and schools, creating a win-win situation for all involved.


A Collaborative Effort for Lasting Impact

The Mi-ELSiS program operates as a partnership between five distinguished institutions of higher education and four high-need local educational agencies. These academic institutions include Grand Valley State University School Psychology Program, Michigan State University School Psychology Program, Central Michigan University School Counseling Program, University of Michigan School of Social Work, and Wayne State University School of Social Work. The participating school districts are Cedar Springs School District, Gratiot-Isabella Regional Education Service District (GIRESD), Jackson County Intermediate School District (JCISD), and Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency (Wayne RESA).


Graduate students from these institutions are placed in high-need schools to complete their fieldwork, gaining invaluable hands-on experience while providing much-needed support to students and staff. Moreover, Mi-ELSiS recognizes the critical role that current school-based providers play in nurturing a talent pipeline. As a result, the program offers financial incentives to these providers for supervising graduate students, further strengthening the educational ecosystem.


Addressing Critical Needs and Building a Sustainable Workforce

Mi-ELSiS addresses several pressing issues within the education and mental health sectors. Its primary goal is to increase the number of school mental health providers by training and retaining professionals. Studies have shown that individuals are more likely to stay and work in an underserved area if they've trained there. This approach not only addresses the immediate shortage of mental health professionals but also aims to build a sustainable, long-term workforce within these communities.


A Commitment to Diversity and Inclusivity

One of Mi-ELSiS's central tenets is its dedication to diversity and inclusivity. By providing opportunities for a wide range of participants, the program seeks to help participants overcome barriers to education and ensure that mental health professionals reflect the demographics of the students they serve. This commitment to diversity not only enriches the educational experience but also fosters a deeper understanding of the unique challenges faced by students and communities.


Administered by Michigan Health Council

Michigan Health Council (MHC) administers the Mi-ELSiS program, overseeing its implementation and working in collaboration with partner institutions and school districts. MHC works to recruit students with the invaluable support of the university programs involved. During this first year, there are 34 participants who have committed to training in high-need schools across Michigan. Moving forward, MHC aims to recruit 44 participants per year for the next four years.


Looking Ahead: A Brighter Future for Michigan's Schools

The Mi-ELSiS program, running from January 1, 2023, to December 21, 2027, stands as a beacon of hope for Michigan's high-need schools. By expanding the ranks of mental health professionals and supporting the retention of these vital providers, Mi-ELSiS is not only improving the educational experience for students but also bolstering the overall well-being of the communities it serves. As Mi-ELSiS continues to flourish, it serves as a model for other regions facing similar challenges, showcasing the power of collaboration, innovation, and a shared commitment to creating a brighter future for all students.

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