Grant to support substance use, mental health response teams at Mahar Regional, Athol High schools

  • Students leave Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange on a January day. The school is one of 11 across the state that will benefit from a $4.9 million grant for substance use and mental health response teams. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

  • Athol High School. The school is one of 11 across the state that will benefit from a $4.9 million grant for substance use and mental health response teams. Staff File Photo/Greg Vine

Staff Writer
Published: 3/18/2021 3:49:41 PM

Athol High School and Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in Orange will be among the schools to have co-occurring substance use and mental health response teams, thanks to a $4.9 million state grant.

Heywood Healthcare in Gardner, one of six entities to split the $4.9 million over six years, will work with the schools to offer intervention and treatment services, and provide alternatives to school suspension for substance use.

“It’s to provide treatment counseling for high school students and it will help to pay for behavioral health therapists, who do screenings and assessment and therapeutic interventions with students,” said Mary Giannetti, director of resource development with Heywood Healthcare, adding that the grant money will expand an existing program and increase accessibility to it.

The money will also be used so Heywood Healthcare can pay for and provide mentors to work with students to identify positive social skills and get them involved in school sports, other extra-curricular activities or employment that will support their well-being.

Giannetti explained her agency’s grant will provide services for Athol High School and Ralph C. Mahar Regional School in one contract, and Gardner High School, Gardner Academy of Learning and Technology, Narragansett Regional High School in Templeton and Murdock Middle/High School in Winchendon in another contract.

According to a press release from the state Department of Public Health, the total $4.9 million will be distributed to the six awarded entities over six years, meaning Heywood Healthcare will receive $136,864 per year to support its area high schools. Funded comes through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) State Opioid Response grant.

“Disruptions to in-school learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic have taken a social and emotional toll on many students, and especially those most at risk for substance use and mental health issues,” state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, who directs the state’s COVID-19 Command Center, said in the release. “This grant will allow much-needed resources to reach students remotely and offer a mental health-driven alternative to suspensions.”

“Massachusetts is taking action to reinforce protections for children affected by substance use and mental health issues in these unprecedented times,” Deirdre Calvert, director of the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services at the Department of Public Health, said in the release. “This grant program will ensure that at-risk youth receive the services they need to prevent substance use, help combat the opioid epidemic and support families during the COVID-19 state of emergency.”

The other five agencies across Massachusetts to receive grant money are High Point Treatment Center, providing services for New Bedford High School; the Institute for Health and Recovery, providing services for Malden High School; North Suffolk Mental Health, providing services for Revere High School; River Valley Counseling Center, providing services for Holyoke High School North Campus; and The Brien Center, providing services for Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington.

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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