(Cedar Rapids) — As districts prepare for the start of a new academic year, they’ll have one additional resource available to help support their students’ mental health needs. Last week the Grant Wood Area Education Agency (Grant Wood AEA) Board of Directors approved a one year agreement with Foundation 2 Crisis Services to extend crisis intervention services to all of the 32 public school districts in the AEA’s service area.Grant Wood AEA Extends Foundation 2 Crisis Services’ J-FAST Support to all 32 Area Districts
This agreement builds upon a partnership that started two years ago. Grant Wood AEA launched a pilot initiative with Foundation 2 Crisis Services specifically to bring Foundation 2 Crisis Services’ Juvenile and Family Assistance and Stabilization Track (J-FAST) to rural communities in Eastern Iowa.
“Access to mental health services has always been important, but where we’re really seeing students struggle is in rural communities that lack adequate funding or nearby resources and organizations,” shared John Speer, Grant Wood AEA Chief Administrator. “Every superintendent in our seven county service area has discussed concerns with supporting students’ mental health needs as a primary, continuing need, and this partnership provides an additional resource for them to utilize this school year.”
When a school district places a call for assistance to J-FAST, counselors are dispatched to quickly intervene and help parents or schools in situations where youth are struggling with depression, violent behavior, substance abuse, self-harm and/or thoughts of suicide. The team’s focus is to stabilize school-based crisis situations and connect students with immediate services.
This support model had been available for many Linn County metro districts for years, and was funded through Linn County Decategorized funds. This new agreement introduces Grant Wood AEA as the fiscal agent to fund Foundation 2 Crisis Services’ J-FAST services for all the accredited, public schools in the AEA’s seven county area, and it builds upon the successful pilot rollout of the partnership. From September 2019 through March 2020, J-FAST received 39 calls from school districts participating in the Grant Wood AEA pilot initiative. Last academic year, J-FAST received 36 calls from those districts.
Solon Community School District is one district that participated in the pilot version of this partnership. Solon students benefited through this initiative by connecting families with outside mental health support, evaluative services and case management, said Davis Eidahl, superintendent in the Solon Community School District. “We are grateful for J-FAST: we feel more equipped to support the unique needs of all our students and families in our district,” he said.
Grant Wood AEA supports more than 72,000 students in public and accredited non-public schools in seven counties including Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn and Washington counties.