HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – Hanover County Public Schools will be expanding the mental health resources offered throughout the school system thanks to a new state grant that will last the remainder of the school year.

Hanover Schools announced on Thursday, Oct. 27 that the school system had received a $374,850 grant from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services to help offer expanded mental health services to Hanover students.

The grant will run through June 30.

Using money from the grant, Hanover Schools will be working with the Hanover County Community Services Board to hire four additional staff members to serve students at Atlee High School, Hanover High School, Bell Creek Middle School and Liberty Middle School.

The hiring of these staff members follows a pilot program at Patrick Henry High School and Mechanicsville High School in which a Hanover County Community Services Board counselor works in the schools and helps students and families find long-term mental health services.

The grant will also be used to purchase mental health support materials and materials for “calming spaces” in all 26 schools. “Calming spaces” are specifically intended for students who need coping mechanisms to stay in the school setting.

“We remain committed to providing our students with the best education possible while also supporting their unique and complex needs,” Dr. Michael Gill, Superintendent of Hanover Schools, said. “We deeply value their mental health and understand that we must first meet their most basic needs as human beings before we can expect them to learn and achieve.”

This move is the latest in Hanover Schools’ mental health programs. During the 2018-19 school year, Hanover Schools was the first school division in Virginia to form a Mental Health Task Force. Hanover Schools has also patterned with Laaser’s Ladybug Society, a nonprofit organization that provides professional learning for school counselors and supplies for students mental health support.

Earlier this year, Hanover’s school-based mental health programs were recognized as a model program in the area of health and human services by The Virginia Association of Counties.