Kean University Launches BeWell Mental Health Initiative to Address K-12 Student Mental Health

January 18, 2023

Kean University is launching a new mental health partnership with an Essex County school district in New Jersey using a $4.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The partnership, called the BeWell Mental Health Initiative, will place Kean graduate students majoring in school and clinical psychology in Belleville schools for internships and externships over five years. The initiative is designed to increase diversity among school psychologists while addressing student mental health in high-need districts.

A study issued by New Jersey Policy Perspective, New Jersey's Black Students Suffer a Decline in Access to School Mental Health Staff, showed that students of color in New Jersey had less access to mental health staff in New Jersey public schools over the past dozen years, while white and Asian students had increased access. About 56% of the 1.3 million kids enrolled in the state's public schools are students of color.

Kean President Lamont O. Repollet was quoted on saying, "School psychologists play a crucial role, especially now when our communities continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic . . . this innovative partnership allows us to assist students, teachers and families in Belleville while increasing the ranks of diverse school psychologists throughout New Jersey."

Kean graduate students will work on social-emotional learning initiatives, classroom sessions on bullying and other preventive measures, and will also work with school staff to identify students and families who need additional services.

The program is seen as an important step in addressing the mental health needs of students of color and economically disadvantaged students, who have been shown to have less access to mental health services in the past.

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