Frederick Uses Therapy Dogs to Lend a Paw to Student Mental Health

Frederick County schools are partnering with a therapy dog organization to boost student mental health.

Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) and Go Team Therapy, Crisis, and Airport Dogs, Inc. (Go Team Therapy Dogs) have entered into an official partnership to boost student mental supports in a fun and effective manner. The new partnership will pair therapy dogs with local classrooms to provide “comfort and caring” through canine-student bonding.

A press release from FCPS explains the logistics of the program:

Volunteers with Go Team Therapy Dogs will provide support for students and families who may benefit from specialized learning opportunities such as Learning for Life programs, Expressions programs, Pyramid programs, Rock Creek School and crisis visits.

FCPS also noted that it hopes the program will “nurture relationships with families and the entire community, sharing responsibility for student success and demonstrating pride in all aspects of our school system.”

The program will prioritize canine support during crisis situations first, followed by specialized programs and various other school community events.

Student mental health is at center of federal support

The FCPS initiative comes as the federal government is targeting student mental health as kids return to American classrooms around the country. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE), for example, recently opened grant applications for two new federal programs to strengthen mental health resources and staff in public schools. USDE first published grant requirements in August and noted that funding would be directly distributed to states and school districts to expand school-based mental health services.

Together, the two grants, which total $280 million, will “encourage states and districts to expand school-based mental health services by increasing, diversifying, recruiting and retaining school mental health staff.”

The School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program will prioritize “funding for states and districts that plan to recruit and retain mental health service providers, as well as states that respecialize existing social workers, counselors, psychologists or other mental health professionals to serve in schools through training.”

The Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program will prioritize “projects that partner high-need districts with higher education institutions to train school-based mental health services professionals. It also prioritizes projects that would increase professionals from diverse backgrounds.”

Additionally, many states and local school districts around the country have leveraged some of the separate $122 billion in American Rescue Plan Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to support school mental health resources.

Read more about the new partnership and program.

Learn more about federal funding targeting student mental health.