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Did any local organizations receive funding from the state’s Restore, Reinvest, and Renew Program grants?

Revenue from the state’s legalization of marijuana is funding a University of Illinois research project aimed at improving social and emotional health in Danville schools.

Kevin Tan, an assistant professor in the UI’s School of Social Work, and the Danville School District applied for the state grant, which was announced last month and approved by the school board last week.

The $313,000 grant will be used to hire two full-time therapists at the school district, who would work with Danville students and their families, Tan said.

As part of the 2019 law that legalized marijuana in Illinois, 25 percent of the revenue has to be used to support communities impacted by “economic disinvestment, violence, and the severe and disproportionate damage caused by the war on drugs,” according to a state news release announcing the recipients of the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew Program grants.

“It’s really important for us to support positive youth identity development, especially at the high school level,” Tan said.

Especially during COVID-19, when students have been more isolated from each other, “now is a critical time for us to focus on social and emotional learning issues of young people,” he said.

The school district will partner with Two Roads Wellness Clinic and Hope Center in Danville, Assistant Superintendent John Hart said, and the therapists will complement the counseling services already in the district.

“It fits in nicely with what we have going,” he said.

Tan said he is interested in learning what issues the students are facing and the outcomes of the therapy.

“I will be interested (in): what are those predominant social and emotional issues faced by Danville students and families?” he said.

He said that understanding their social and emotional health will help address violence in the Danville community.

It is “striking at the root of the issue, which is really about how young people manage and cope with their own emotions to really understand who they are,” Tan said.

He hopes the therapy can help “nurture their sense of engagement and ultimately their sense of belonging,” Tan said. “Where do I fit in with my peers, my family, my community, my neighborhood?”

The grant will fund the therapists through January 2022, he said.

“What happens after that, we do not know, but at my end, we’re definitely looking to build an ongoing relationship and support the Danville schools and community,” Tan said.

While the details are being worked out, the therapy will be provided free of charge, Tan said, and will be available after regular working hours for families.

“I’m really glad that we managed to secure this grant to bring in additional resources for the district,” he said.

“Because it is a grant, there is no cost to our students and no cost to the school district,” Hart said. “Some of our kids don’t have insurance. That won’t matter and won’t be a roadblock to getting counseling.”

The state received nearly 400 applications for the grants, of which $31.5 million was awarded to 80 projects.

“Helping to break the cycle of violence, helping to break the cycle of poverty is what this grant is really about,” Tan said.

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