KRMG In-Depth: City, TPS receive millions in grants to address youth mental health crisis

Dr. Ebony Johnson (TPS Interim Superintendent), Erin Parks (Oklahoma Family Network), Mayor G.T. Bynum,  and Zack Stoycoff (Healthy Minds Policy Initiative) pose for a photo after a news conference at Tulsa City Hall, Oct. 12, 2023

TULSA — In the course of a single year, 4,000 children in Tulsa County attempted suicide, according to Mayor G.T. Bynum.

He shared that startling statistic with KRMG Thursday following a news conference in which he and other dignitaries announced federal grants of nearly $13 million to tackle the youth mental health crisis.

[Hear the KRMG In-Depth Report on the youth mental health grants for Tulsa and TPS HERE]

The grants were awarded after years of hard work by a number of people, spearheaded by the Healthy Minds Policy Initiative.

Healthy Minds Executive Director Zack Stoycoff told KRMG this is the first time the city has ever received federal funds for mental health services.

Clearly, it comes at a time when it’s badly needed.

Stoycoff says the pandemic triggered a 117% spike in the number of children and youth admitted for psychiatric services.

Half of the children needing serious help with mental health issues do not receive state-funded services, Tulsa Public Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Ebony Johnson told KRMG.

The grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will not only greatly extend the number and types of services the district can offer, it will allow them to screen - with caregiver permission - every student in the district to help identify those in need.

That is key, Stoycoff added.

Currently, “we are not providing the opportunity for identification,” he told KRMG. “Those are opportunities that are missed. Those are children who exhibit behavioral challenges, violence, drug use, things like that. We can head all of that off, and we can connect them to the intensive services that they need.”

The SAMHSA System of Care grant to the city is roughly $4 million over four years, and will be supplemented by roughly $3 million in matching funds donated by local partners.

The SAMHSA Project AWARE grant for TPS will provide roughly $9 million over five years.

Russell Mills

Russell Mills

Anchor/Reporter/Show Host

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