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Boys and Girls Club of Western PA using $1.8M grant to offer teens mental health support

The Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania is receiving $1.8 million to launch violence prevention programming.

The goal is to reach 150 teens via five clubs in the Pittsburgh area.

“This grant allows us to introduce an element that we feel is missing in our current program … mental health counseling, to serve kids that may have experienced significant trauma in their communities or significant challenges, that they are not necessarily prepared to face,” president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Western PA, Chris Watts said.

The grant comes from the Pennsylvania Commission for Crime and Delinquency’s Violence and Intervention Program. Its purpose is to help communities reduce gun and group violence across the state.

“This grant was $100 million across the state, and $21 million was dedicated to Allegheny County. The Boys and Girls Club is working with a collaboration of partners that also received this grant,” Watts said.

This funding will make mental health counseling free to teens both in person and virtual. It’s provided by their partner, Vitable Health.

“We also know that sometimes transportation is a significant barrier. Paying to be a part of these programs is a barrier, and also just their time and what do they choose to do with their time, whether it’s a job or necessary functions at home. This grant is going to help support transportation costs, free access to our programming, as well as provide a stipend to kids who want to be a part of our program,” Watts said.

A key part will be mentorship. Watts is preparing now to begin hiring mentoring success coaches who will build trust and relationships with the teens.

“We want people that want to connect with kids. We’re looking for folks who want to be mentors, who want to help provide resources and support for teens to help them develop critical skills to help them for success in life,” Watts said.

Watts expects the grant terms to be finalized on Feb. 1, and then they’ll begin the hiring process. They hope to begin delivering these services to teens in late spring.

Kalea Gunderson

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