AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center(TTUHSC) will receive approximately millions of dollars in federal funding to improve children’s mental health care.

TTUHSC said on Wednesday that $113,082,887 in American Rescue Plan funding was allocated to the Texas Child Mental Health Care Consortium to improve mental health care, expand services, and increase the mental health workforce.

Of that $113 million, TTUHSC will receive approximately $32 million.

TTUHSC President, Lori Rice-Spearman, Ph.D., said the money will be used to expand some of their existing programs.

“We’re very excited about the impact. We’ve known now for almost a decade that we have an access issue regarding child and adolescent mental health and access to those services,” said. Dr. Rice-Spearman. “We serve 108 counties across West Texas and so, we knew that this was a very concerning issue across our region.”

She said one of their existing programs, Texas Child Health Access Through Telemedicine (TCHATT), serves almost 150 school districts. That is the equivalent of almost 900 schools, elementary, middle school, and high school, and more than 200,000 students.

Now, they want to focus on getting more school districts registered to get more kids access to care.

“It really is a great resource for those teachers and those counselors in the schools who are in these underserved areas to really have 24/7 access to someone to ask questions and find out the best referral,” she said. “Last year, we looked at our numbers, and we had almost 1,200 referrals.”

She continued, “50% of those referrals were related to childhood depression. 25% were related to suicide ideation. So we know that we can do some prevention and intervention early on.”

Rice-Spearman said their second area of focus will be expanding the workforce.

“We want to make sure that we are working with psychiatrists and counselors across the region, to be able to develop this workforce and training and grow these individuals in their communities,” she said. “And the last one is research. We are always focused on trauma research and depression in child and adolescent populations. And so growing our research and making sure that we’re making evidence-based decisions and treatment.”

When asked how the funding would address pressing issues in Texas—like school safety—she said, “It allows us to work with those school counselors, mental health counselors, and really developing tools for intervention, tools around health and mental health and, and really strengthening these children’s ability to cope and handle some very challenging situations.”

She continued by saying, “Another aspect also is the connection that we are making with our primary care providers and our pediatricians. Sometimes, particularly in complex cases, the ability to reach out to a child psychiatrist is a lifeline for them to be able to provide care in these communities.”

Dr. Rice-Spearman said she believes the foundation of mental health, is health in general.

“It’s not just about mental health. It’s about nutrition. It’s about making sure that they have a stable home environment, that they have security,” she said. “So we’re one piece of the puzzle here with the child mental health piece, but we are taking a holistic approach.”