NEWINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) – “We knew we had some unmet needs,” says Newington Superintendent Maureen Brummett.

That’s why the district applied for a grant from the state to hire an additional mental health professional.

They were given $324,000 to be used in three years to add a new “SEL” or Social Emotional Learning counselor to the high school.

“We’ve certainly, with our own observational data, seen students who were very emotionally impacted, some due to COVID, and some of it due to stressors of being a high school student,” says Brummett.

“I just truly want to support kids through their adolescence. It’s such a difficult time,” says Christina Redman, who was given the new position. She will teach a special course and meet with students one-on-one.

She’s fueled by personal experience.

“My brother battled a 10-year addiction starting with prescription medication,” says Redman. “Sadly, he passed away four and a half years ago from a heroin and fentanyl overdose.”

In addition to being a longtime Spanish teacher, Redman launched a Stop the Stigma club after her brother’s death, bringing guest speakers and awareness programs to the school and even creating a special project in the cafeteria.

“We took a green index card, green is the color for mental health, and we just asked the question, ‘What does mental health mean to you?'” she explains.

“We are absolutely in a time where kids need this,” says Wethersfield Superintendent Michael Emmett. His district, also given $324,000, will add a social worker to the middle school.

Since the pandemic, absenteeism has been one of several issues.

“For us, social media and the reach of social media and the impact it has on kids has been profound,” he says.

Boards of education will be tracking the new positions to see if they make an impact.

“We think we’re really going to do really good things with this position,” says Brummett, who believes the grants are a big step in the right direction, helping kids navigate this challenging landscape.

“We want them to develop a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy mental outlook,” says Brummett.

The Newington position will link to the town’s mental health services so both entities can work together, addressing the students’ needs.

Click here for the complete list of schools that received these grants.