News Release

Georgia State Researcher awarded $3.6 million grant to help address mental health crisis in schools

The funding will boost the training, hiring and diversification of mental health professionals

Grant and Award Announcement

Georgia State University

ATLANTA — Catherine Perkins, a clinical professor in the College of Education & Human Development at Georgia State University, has been awarded a five-year, $3.6 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education to expand quality school-based mental health (SBMH) services for underserved populations in high-need schools.

The Expanding Quality SBMH Services for Underserved Populations with Inclusive Practices (GSU-EQUIP) grant will have a direct impact in metro Atlanta by increasing access to school-based programs and strengthening the candidate pool of mental health professionals in school districts with the most need.

“What we know is that there is a documented shortage of school psychologists in Georgia and nationwide,” Perkins said. “We also know that the demographics of our profession do not represent the diversity of our K-12 students. With this grant, we will be able to address these challenges by increasing the number and diversity of school psychology students in our combined M.Ed./Ed.S. program.”

The grant is part of a nationwide effort to tackle the mental health crisis in schools. According to a 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey conducted between 2009 and 2019, there was a 40 percent increase in the number of high school students reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness to the degree they couldn’t participate in their regular activities.

Under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the Department of Education has awarded $286 million in funding through two grant programs — the School-Based Mental Health and the Mental Health Service Professional (MHSP) grants — aimed at preparing more than 14,000 new mental health professionals to work in schools.

Perkins’ grant is funded through the DOE’s MHSP Demonstration Grant program.

The funding will reduce financial barriers to graduate school for candidates from diverse and underrepresented groups who might not otherwise have access to professional training and expanded career opportunities, Perkins said. The Paulding and Gwinnett county school districts are partnering with the university to accept educational practicum and internship students and participate in a range of activities to create a community of providers trained to do work in high-need schools.

Participating graduate students will receive three full years of funding, including a stipend and tuition waiver, and money for parking, books, conference travel, laptop computers, health care benefits and child care as needed. Faculty will provide training to students focused on the delivery of culture-specific, evidence-based mental health interventions in high-need schools.

“Dr. Perkins’ grant exemplifies how college and school district partnerships can address the significant need for more and diverse school psychologists,” said Paul A. Alberto, Regents’ Professor in Intellectual Disabilities and dean of the College of Education & Human Development. “We’re grateful to do this work with strong partners like Gwinnett and Paulding counties.”

Perkins serves as the coordinator of the college’s School Psychology M.Ed./Ed.S. program. She is also a research faculty member in the College of Education & Human Development’s Center for School Safety, School Climate and Classroom Management. For this initiative, she is working with a team of Georgia State researchers including Tamika La Salle-Finley, who serves as co-principal investigator, and co-investigators Chavez PhelpsJoel Meyers and Kris Varjas.

To learn more about this project or applying to the Georgia State School Psychology program, email

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