Western Connecticut State University receives federal mental health funding


Western Connecticut State University will receive more than $1.6 million over the next four years to expand and improve programs focused on training students to respond to mental health crises.

The funding is part of a federal grant awarded to the Danbury-based university and the University of Connecticut on Friday.

WCSU is expected to received $421,000 each year for four years, making it the largest grant the university has received.

The money was awarded through the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program, which was reauthorized as part of U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy’s Mental Health Reform Act. The program expands the behavioral health workforce and trains new mental health providers, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and paraprofessionals.

UConn received nearly $179,000 to recruit, train and place social workers in underserved areas of Connecticut with a focus on integrated care.

As grant recipients, UConn and WCSU are expected to help close the gap in access to behavioral health care services by recruiting new behavioral health professionals and providing opportunities for field placement, job placement, and career development services, according to the news release.

“Too many kids and adults with mental health needs in this country don’t get the timely care they need for one reason: we don’t have enough trained behavioral health specialists to care for them,” Murphy said. “I worked hard to reauthorize this grant program as part of my Mental Health Reform Act because I believe that it should be as easy to access a doctor or get prescriptions for an illness of the mind as it is for an illness of the body.”

Dr. Gabriel Lomas, professor of education and educational psychology at WCSU, applied for the grant.

“A key aspect is to grow our program so we can increase the behavioral health workforce in the area,” Lomas said. “We will be able to place more students in primary care with physicians and train all students in the behavioral health program in trauma and crisis models. If we have space, members of the community will be able to take the training, too.”

Lomas came to WCSU with a deep background in helping communities respond to crisis. He was a member of a school-based crisis response team and clinical crisis response team in Texas, and he helped to create a Regional Crisis Team in the western part of Connecticut to assist area schools in crisis response preparation.

“WCSU prides itself in being a community partner, developing curricula that are responsive to regional needs,” said WCSU Provost Dr. Missy Alexander. “This grant is just another example of our commitment to Danbury and the surrounding area. We are extremely proud of Dr. Lomas and the work that he has done to secure these funds.”

Federal funding to allow Richmond students to learn from James River

Whenever Justin Mattingly posts new content, you’ll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link.

Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.

Concho Elementary School gets additional federal funding | Apache …

Whenever Mike Leiby posts new content, you’ll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link.

Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.

Concho Elementary School gets additional federal funding

Whenever Mike Leiby posts new content, you’ll get an email delivered to your inbox with a link.

Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.

Credit union offers schools grants

WINSTON-SALEM — Truliant Federal Credit Union is inviting schools in its communities to apply for Financial Education Grants.

The program provides as much as $5,000 to public school teachers, grades 6–12, who wish to include financial education in their curricula.

The money can be used to improve existing programs or to implement new programs. Funding may be provided to support classroom activities, professional development opportunities, or new and innovative ways to teach financial education. Topics might be budgeting, saving, investing, entrepreneurship, business and economics.

Truliant will distribute a total of $200,000 in financial literacy education grants through 2020. The fund was launched in 2016 in celebration of the credit union’s reaching 200,000 members and surpassing $2 billion in assets.

Teachers may apply individually, or collaborate and apply as departments. A preliminary budget is required to demonstrate how the money will be spent. Teachers can find the grant application at truliant.org/schoolgrants.

Selected semifinalists will be featured on Truliant’s Facebook page and website to encourage online voting. Grant recipients will be selected based on the internal review and the online voting.

Completed applications, including all documentation required, should be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6. Semifinalists selected to be featured in the online voting will be notified later in October. Winners will be announced in mid-November.

Truliant has locations in Alamance County at 2564 Kirkwood Drive and 1205 University Drive, No. 114, Burlington, and 1801 N.C. 119 S., Mebane.

 

Audit raises concerns about education funding oversight

CONCORD, N.H.  — A federal audit of how New Hampshire manages federal education funds found the state has failed to independently monitor schools to ensure they are using the money appropriately.

The U.S. Department of Education reviewed 19 areas in a fiscal review of how the state education department administers federal grants last fall. In a report issued to the state in August, auditors rated the state satisfactory on eight measures and said it is meeting requirements, but should make improvements in five other areas. The audit found six areas of significant concern requiring action by Oct. 18, including a failure to monitor grant recipients to ensure that performance goals are met and that money is being used for authorized purposes.

“This lack of fiscal oversight creates a significant risk that subrecipients could mismanage federal programs, resulting in potential unallowable expenditures or instances of waste, fraud or abuse,” the report states.

The state also was faulted for lacking a standard process to ensure that schools have fixed problems identified in audits and for relying on external auditors to evaluate its operations and internal controls.

Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, who took office in February, said he has worked with the federal government to address the concerns.

“We are confident in the effectiveness of the current systems of internal control we have in place now and going forward,” he said.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said some of the findings were disappointing and troubling.

“Under the leadership of Commissioner Edelbut, we are putting the state on a path of sound internal controls, meeting our fiduciary responsibilities to taxpayers and our regulatory obligations,” he said.

Audit raises concerns about education funding oversight

CONCORD, N.H.  — A federal audit of how New Hampshire manages federal education funds found the state has failed to independently monitor schools to ensure they are using the money appropriately.

The U.S. Department of Education reviewed 19 areas in a fiscal review of how the state education department administers federal grants last fall. In a report issued to the state in August, auditors rated the state satisfactory on eight measures and said it is meeting requirements, but should make improvements in five other areas. The audit found six areas of significant concern requiring action by Oct. 18, including a failure to monitor grant recipients to ensure that performance goals are met and that money is being used for authorized purposes.

“This lack of fiscal oversight creates a significant risk that subrecipients could mismanage federal programs, resulting in potential unallowable expenditures or instances of waste, fraud or abuse,” the report states.

The state also was faulted for lacking a standard process to ensure that schools have fixed problems identified in audits and for relying on external auditors to evaluate its operations and internal controls.

Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut, who took office in February, said he has worked with the federal government to address the concerns.

“We are confident in the effectiveness of the current systems of internal control we have in place now and going forward,” he said.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said some of the findings were disappointing and troubling.

“Under the leadership of Commissioner Edelbut, we are putting the state on a path of sound internal controls, meeting our fiduciary responsibilities to taxpayers and our regulatory obligations,” he said.

Colorado sex ed program closes after Trump administration cuts …

A Denver-based program that helps school districts with sex education and works to prevent teen pregnancy is closing, after the Trump administration ended its main grant early.

Colorado Youth Matter received 75 percent of its funding from the federal grant, about $750,000 per year. The grant had been scheduled to run through 2020, but the Trump administration ended the federal Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program grants as of next summer for all of the 84 organizations around the country that received them. The administration cited concerns about whether the programs were effective, a rationale critics have questioned.

Regardless, without its main source of money, Colorado Youth Matter would have struggled to make its budget work, said Andrea Miller, the group’s executive director. Another private foundation also ended its grant with Colorado Youth Matter after the Trump administration announcement, worried that the organization would be too diminished without the federal money, Miller said.

“It would be difficult to regain some of that ground,” she said.

Colorado Youth Matter works with schools in Denver and Aurora, as well as with a program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, to teach broad-based sex education. That means it provides information about both abstinence and birth control, while also teaching teens about sexually transmitted infections, healthy relationships and consent, among other topics.

Last fiscal year, the organization trained more than 350 teachers and school health staffers and its curriculum reached about 1,300 students. Miller planned to expand its reach in the coming years.

The organization had hoped to find new grants, donations or other funding sources to help keep it afloat, to no avail. So, instead, Miller said the group’s board made the decision to close at the end of the year. Over the next months, Colorado Youth Matter will work with schools and foundations to create sustainable sex education programs that can outlive the organization.

“We remain steadfast in our vision that all young people in Colorado deserve education and resources to make informed decisions about their sexual health,” she wrote in a letter to supporters announcing the closure. “We know that other very worthy organizations across our state will carry that vision work forward.”

Over the past decade, Colorado has been a national model for how to reduce the teen pregnancy rate. Between 2009, when the state launched the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, and 2014, the teen pregnancy rate and teen abortion rate both dropped by roughly 50 percent. A report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looking at declines in teen birth rates between 2007 and 2015, found that Colorado ranked fifth nationally for the reduction in urban counties and second nationally for the reduction in rural counties.

Audit Raises Concerns about Education Funding Oversight

A federal audit of how New Hampshire manages federal education funds has found six areas of significant concern.

The U.S. Department of Education completed a fiscal review of how the state education department administers federal grants last fall, reviewing 19 areas. In its recently issued report, auditors rated the state satisfactory on eight measures and said it is meeting requirements, but should make improvements, in five other areas.

One of the six problem areas was making sure that schools are using money for authorized purposes. The audit said the lack of fiscal oversight creates a significant risk for mismanagement of funds, which could lead to waste or fraud.

Education Commissioner Frank Edelbut, who took over in February, says the concerns have been addressed.

State auditor finds WSU likely violated federal grant rules

Washington State University likely violated federal rules when it used money from a science grant to pay salaries and benefits for two employees who had little to no involvement in the projects, a state audit report has found.

While the amount in question is small — just $17,000 in all — a WSU professor who blew the whistle on the case says he’s concerned WSU’s federal grant funding could be in jeopardy as a result.

The issue was raised by Norman Lewis, a professor in WSU’s Institute of Biological Chemistry and former director of the institute, who reported it to the state auditor this past year. In an interview, Lewis — a whistleblower who has waived anonymity — said he believes WSU administrators falsified documents and may have also committed grant fraud.

The state auditor’s office didn’t go that far, but it found reasonable cause that an “improper governmental action” occurred when James Moyer, the associate dean of research for the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), directed changes to the federal grant to pay the salaries of two employees.

The auditor’s office found that one employee did no work on the NASA project, but was being paid from that fund, and that another worked at a lesser percentage than was being charged to the grant.

While the state auditor found that an improper government action took place, it did not find that a possible ethics violation took place, said Kathleen Cooper, spokeswoman for the auditor’s office. In part, that’s because Lewis didn’t raise that issue at the time, and also because the action didn’t meet the definitions of any of the things that constitute an ethics violation, Cooper said.

However, the State Ethics Board will also review the case, and it could reach a different finding, she said.

WSU officials have pushed back against the auditor’s report, saying it left out some facts that “lend to an inaccurate and incomplete context of the situation.”

Among the reasons for why WSU objects to the finding: administrators say Lewis was told that if the two employees weren’t moved to federal grant work, they would be at risk of being laid off; and that Lewis had been “repeatedly instructed to address the funding concerns but has repeatedly failed to respond and did not take appropriate corrective action,” wrote Phil Weiler, the university’s vice president for marketing and communications, in an email.

Lewis disputes those arguments.

He was granted whistleblower status by the state as part of the investigation, which means he cannot be retaliated against for providing information to the auditor.

At issue are grants awarded to CAHNRS, the university’s largest college. In 2016, CAHNRS received more than $83 million in federal research funding, according to the state auditor’s report.

One of those grants was a $2 million, 3-year grant awarded by NASA to investigate how genetically modified plants would grow in space, Lewis said. The plants are scheduled to be sent in 2018 to the International Space Station, where astronauts will grow and tend them in a specially designed plant-habitat facility.

Lewis is the principal investigator for the NASA grant, as well as for a second grant from the federal Department of Energy (DOE). Both grants involved the study of lignin, a complex organic polymer found in plants that makes them woody and rigid. The two studies are unrelated.

As principal investigator, Lewis — who was director of WSU’s Institute of Biological Chemistry for 25 years, before he stepped down two years ago to focus on research — is the primary contact responsible for overseeing the project, including its fiscal aspects.

In the summer of 2016, Lewis said, WSU administrators proposed moving an employee who worked as a technician in the institute onto the NASA grant payroll. But Lewis said the employee didn’t have the skills necessary to do the work, and both he and NASA officials told administrators not to use the grant money to pay the employee’s salary.

Lewis said something similar happened with the DOE grant, involving a technician whose salary was 30 percent funded by the grant. He said WSU officials wanted that employee’s salary to be fully funded by the DOE grant.

In August 2016, after Lewis filed a public-records request to see paperwork on the two grants, he said he discovered WSU officials had charged the two employees’ full salaries from the grant funds. In addition, Lewis said, another WSU administrator had signed the paperwork and listed himself as the principal investigator for the project, even though Lewis is the principal investigator.

“As far as I am concerned, this was falsification of documents,” Lewis said. He said he is also concerned WSU may be liable for grant fraud.

In the NASA case, the employee’s salary — $8,218 in compensation and $3,416 in benefits — was charged to the NASA grant for about six weeks, starting in July 2016, according to the auditor’s report. The employee told investigators that she had never worked on the NASA grant.

In the DOE case, the employee whose salary was partially funded by the grant became wholly funded by the grant starting in July 2016, an amount totaling $3,569 in compensation and $1,850 in benefits.

Lewis said the case will be reported to the office of inspector general for NASA and DOE, which could penalize WSU.

Lewis said he is concerned that WSU could be frozen out of future federal grants. In past cases of grant fraud, the federal government has prosecuted such misconduct aggressively, including levying millions of dollars in fines against universities found in violation of the law.