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The Cullman County School System has received a state grant to improve mental health services across all of its schools.

The system received a $40,000 grant from the Alabama State Department of Education to fund a new position to coordinate mental health services, and voted Thursday evening to give a $1,000 per month stipend to Learning Support Specialist Karen Pinion to act as the system's Mental Health Services Coordinator.

Cullman County Schools Superintendent Shane Barnette said the state has seen the importance of mental health services in school systems, and awarded the grant money to either create a new position or be used as a stipend for one of the system's current employees to take on the additional duties.

"The state of Alabama has recognized that we have such an issue with mental health services in our society right now," he said. 

The state did not fund the position in every school system, but the ALSDE allowed systems to apply for the grant, and the Cullman County School System applied for it and got it, Barnette said.

Because the Mental Health Services Coordinator is a pilot program, the state is still working on the exact responsibilities for the position, but the role will be more clearly defined as the year goes on, he said. 

"The state is actually still building this position," he said. "They don't know what all its going to coordinate."

Pinion already works closely with the system's counselors and social workers as part of her current job, so the board felt that it would be best for her to take on the new role as the system's Mental Health Services Coordinator and take on additional duties as the state puts them under the new position's purview.

"We felt it would be a natural fit for her to add that title, and as they add things over this next year, she's going to pick those up," he said. 

The $40,000 grant is for this year only, but the state is considering adding the Mental Health Services Coordinator as a line item on future budgets, which would allow the ALSDE to fund the position in every school system in the state, Barnette said.

Tyler Hanes can be reached at 256-734-2131 ext. 238.

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