The CFHA wins grant to address mental health concerns in our area and issues a challenge to the community to match with donations

From left to right, front row, Tom Jacquin, Bartow Molloy, Lisa Schulte, Paula Pierce, Lois Kruse, Dustin Kallmeyer. Back row, left to right, Gary Heldt, Ron Kraettli, Bart Toedtmann, Scott Smith, Jim Holland, Brian Grannemann, Tim Ulhorn, and Brent Hellman. Missing are Cathy Lloyd and Lynette Watts. 

The Community Foundation of the Hermann Area (CFHA) has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks (CFO) and Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) to address health issues in communities in the CFO’s rural service area. The CFHA will award the entire grant for the improvement of mental health care in the Gasconade County R-1 school district. The Gasconade County R-1 School District currently faces significant challenges regarding access to mental health services.  Specifically, staff development in the areas of mental health is needed, as well as student instruction in behavioral analysis, self-regulation (control emotions), coping skills to address and prevent anxiety and depression, social awareness, and suicide prevention.

The fund will be co-administered by Dawn Grosse, school-based social worker and Melissa (Missy) Ash, the Director of Student Services. 

In addition to the grant award, the Wyatt’s fund has pledged a matching donation of $5,000. “I am thrilled that our school district was awarded this grant to address mental health concerns in our community. I am pledging an additional $5,000 to this initiative to target programs to serve the autistic students in our community” said Sam Frink, founder of Wyatt’s fund. “We are hopeful others will help with their own matching donation.” Sam and his wife, Missy established Wyatt’s Fund with the CFHA in 2012 to provide financial assistance for services for children in the school district with autism and/or sensory integration disorders.

“We are so grateful to Sam for the matching funding. So far, we plan to purchase special equipment such as desks designed for the autistic and expand our counseling services for our autistic students” said Dawn Grosse. 

“In order to identify the issues of the school district, a research agency was contracted to interview parents, teachers, community members and students. These interviews determined that access to mental health services is a huge area of concern for our rural community. Through strategic planning exercises, they identified accessibility, availability, acceptability and funding as the largest barriers to addressing our mental health crisis” reports Missy Ash. 

“This school year, the district has been able to take a proactive step by attempting to alleviate some of the barriers facing our students by contracting for a full-time therapist in our school buildings.  This clinician is employed by Hermann Area District Hospital (HADH) and is currently providing therapy services to several dozen students, K-12. Two other therapists employed by HADH see over 20 more students in their clinic (those students typically have private insurance whose insurers do not allow students to be seen in a school setting)” reports Dan McKinney, the HADH Administrator. “We are thrilled with the grant award and look forward to providing additional services to the school district as they arise.”

The Gasconade County R-1 School District has a total student population of 919 of which 172 are in its Special Education program. This is another area that needs mental health funding to help with behavioral modification suggestions and interventions to help address the students' mental health.

“One of the largest barriers to mental health care locally is financial. Our community has a high population of low-income families (as indicated by our Free and Reduced School Lunch program percentage of 41% of the student population) and the parents of these families cannot take off work to travel to the nearest mental health providers which are 30-60 minutes away from our community.  This grant funding will help provide staff, students and community members easier access to desperately needed mental health services locally” said Dawn Grosse.

The CFHA will provide the $10,000 grant to for the improvement of mental health care in the Gasconade County R-1 school district. The fund will be co-administered by Dawn Grosse and Missy Ash. Dawn and Missy will target funding to address specific issues identified by the research agency.

 “With the recent deaths by suicide of two students in our district this past year, along with research data gathered from the school staff, students, parents, and community members, CFHA has identified the need to address mental health services in our rural community.  Equipping our school district staff with techniques in the classroom to identify those students, along with offering direct services to those students of concern, will be the focus. The funds will be used for professional development for teachers, administrators and staff” CFHA Board President, Dustin Kallmeyer, said. 

Our community has also identified the need for community/parent meetings or seminars on mental health issues to benefit the community has a whole. The school district will sponsor mental health professionals to come in and address these concerns, offering techniques to help and serve the district.  Grant funding will also be used for informational nights for parent and community members - informing them how to deal with specific stressors, relationship building, self-awareness, handling relationships and things to look out for regarding mental health in both children and adults.  Along with identifying these areas of concern in our K-12 school, the District believes offering small groups in each of these identifying areas for the students would be of help. Curriculum is available for these topics which research states is hugely beneficial. For the students that have needs greater than the District’s scope of expertise, a Board-Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) will be contracted to help develop strategies to best help educate these students. Grant funds will help all of our community become more aware of the barriers, be accepting of these adults and children with mental challenges and alleviate the barriers of accessibility, availability, acceptability in our rural community by bringing these services to those who need it most.

“The need for additional mental health help services is substantial in our rural community,” CFHA Board President, Dustin Kallmeyer, said. “We are very excited about this award. It gives us a good start at addressing this critical need in our community. The mental health of our students and the chance to educate our instructors, students, and the community is significant. We hope to be broadening our support of this initiative through further donations and creation of new funds to support mental health issues in the future. We will work closely with our school district and community in overcoming identified barriers to needed mental health services and provide the schools with the tools to continue their strategic efforts to help kids and families succeed at school and in their homes.”

While $15,000 is funding enough to alleviate some of the immediate areas of concern, additional donations would allow the school district to provide more services and programs to address our mental health issues. The CFHA is officially announcing a “challenge” to the Hermann community to match this funding with donations. Donations can be made by mailing a check to: CFHA, P.O. Box 62, Hermann, MO 65041. Please write in the memo field “mental health initiative.”  

The Community Foundation of the Hermann Area, Inc., was founded in 2005 as an Affiliate of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Since then, it has granted more than $2 million back to the community and holds assets of nearly $3 million as of Dec. 31, 2019.