$15M gift to UI benefits school mental health | Iowa & The Midwest

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IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa College of Education has received a $15 million donation — the largest gift ever to the college — to support training and research in school mental health.

The Iowa Center for School Mental Health, founded last summer with $20 million in federal pandemic relief money, will be renamed the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health after the gift from the Chicago-based Scanlan Family Foundation.

The gift and renaming, which will be considered July 27 by the Iowa Board of Regents, will expand clinical support for school mental health in collaboration with the UI’s Belin-Blank Center.

“We know there are a lot of people who have been personally impacted by mental health and we’re very grateful for the Scanlans and their support,” College of Education Dean Dan Clay told The Gazette.

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The center is a partnership between the UI and the Iowa Department of Education to address the mental health needs of Iowa students and staff with professional development, research and clinical assessment and intervention.

The need for the center became apparent in 2020 as suicide rates escalated among teens during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many teens were isolated and experiencing depression or anxiety.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Iowans ages 14 to 44 and one in 13 Iowa high school students have attempted suicide one or more times, the UI reported.

The purpose of the center is to provide social, emotional, behavioral and psychological services to schools, not only to aid in COVID-19 recovery but to build capacity for immediate and future delivery of mental health supports across the state, a news release from the UI states.

“The benefit of this gift is it provides a baseline of annual ongoing support for clinical services — funding for psychologists and social workers to work with schools,” Clay said.

The center will work with Iowa school districts and Area Education Agencies to provide training and services.

The $15 million gift also will have a focus on the mental health of veterans and military families, Clay said.

Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan, a Des Moines native, and her husband, Patrick Scanlan, have been longtime supporters of the Belin-Blank Center, pledging $10 million in 2016 to create the Martin and Melva Bucksbaum Early Entrance Academy for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

“Many people, and especially our youth in Iowa and across the country, are struggling with mental health issues,” Bucksbaum Scanlan said in a statement Tuesday. “Our family foundation recognizes the extraordinary work at the University of Iowa and wants to help scale those efforts to help more people.”