FIU gets $6M to boost mental health at Miami-Dade public schools

CBS Miami | By Gabby Arzola | February 20, 2023

MIAMI – In an effort to bring more school psychologists and social workers into Miami-Dade County Schools, FIU was awarded $6 million dollars.

“The [mental health] crisis is continuing, and it’s getting worse,” says psychologist Philip Lazarus, associate professor at FIU’s School of Education and Human Development. 

Lazarus says since the pandemic, children have been struggling to develop their social skills, and are experiencing more stress and anxiety.

“Youngsters in third grade…have the social skills of a first grader,” says Lazarus. “We thought with time, they’d catch up…but it’s not an easy fix.”

School psychologists have been working to help these students—but the system is stretched thin.

In Miami-Dade alone, there is one school psychologist for every 1,598 students. 

Social workers? One, for every 2,492 students.

“That number is crazy, it’s been this way for decades,” says Lazarus. “But now that society is focused on mental health, the need is more apparent.”

FIU received a $6 million dollar grant to help recruit people into their graduate programs of school psychology and social work.

The funds will go to students, and would help pay for tuition and stipends.

“As you know the cost of living is a lot higher in Miami-Dade,” says FIU’s Director of the School Psychology program, Andy Pham. “We are emphasizing that they will be successful.”

After graduation, they would immediately have a job within the Miami-Dade County School system.

“We need a lot more help for all children in today’s schools,” says Lazarus.

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