McKee Administration Receives $7.2 Million Federal Grant for RIDE to Expand Mental Health Awareness and Support Programs

Published on Wednesday, January 04, 2023

4-year award administered through SAMHSA’s Project AWARE expands RIDE’s partnership with RI DCYF to the Chariho, East Providence, Newport, and Warwick school districts

PROVIDENCE, RI – The McKee Administration today announced that the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) has been awarded a four-year, $7.2 million Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) grant to expand youth mental health services in the Chariho, East Providence, Newport, and Warwick school districts.

“Today’s announcement that Rhode Island has been awarded this competitive grant funding is a major step in improving and expanding youth mental health services across all 39 Rhode Island cities and towns,” said Governor Dan McKee. “My administration is committed to prioritizing mental health, building partnerships, and working together to address the critical needs of our youth.”

“Project AWARE provides our education professionals with the much-needed resources and training they need in order to protect the mental health of Rhode Island’s students. I am excited to see it expand to new schools across Rhode Island,” said Lt. Sabina Governor Matos. “We are grateful to SAMSHA for their continued support of this an important collaboration between RIDE and DCYF.”

The purpose of Project AWARE is to increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth and to provide training for school personnel to detect mental health issues, respond to them, and connect the affected students’ families to needed services. Partners, including RIDE and the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), will implement professional and paraprofessional training, mental health related promotions (“Let it Out”), and prevention, intervention, and resilience activities to ensure students have access and are connected to appropriate and effective behavioral health services.

“Addressing the mental health needs of school communities and ensuring their well-being is a top priority for the Council,” said Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Patti DiCenso. “We are thankful for the partners that collaborated to apply for this competitive grant, and we extend our gratitude to every educator and student working in our schools to normalize seeking support.”

RIDE received its first Project AWARE grant, which is administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2018 to launch pilot programs in Pawtucket, Providence, and Woonsocket. In September 2022, Bradley Hospital, in partnership with RIDE and DCYF, received an $8.6 million grant to allow the continuation of these programs for five more years.

In 2021, through a second $9 million grant, RIDE expanded Project AWARE into Cranston, West Warwick, and Westerly school districts. Between the two cohorts’ fourth and first years, 37 school district policies relating to youth mental health services, student safety, and school responsiveness have been enacted and 49 formal partnerships between school districts and mental health organizations have been created. Today’s grant will build on those successes and expand those programs to the more than 18,300 students in the Chariho, East Providence, Newport, and Warwick school districts. $1.8 million will be allocated to Project AWARE’s third cohort annually, totaling $7.2 million over the course of four years.

“From new district policies to formal partnerships with mental health organizations to help students and staff, Project AWARE has provided tangible results for our school communities,” said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “To ensure ongoing success, we must continue to bring youth to the table, listen, and take action. We look forward to continued collaboration and remain deeply grateful to SAMHSA, our partners, and Rhode Island’s school communities.”

“EOHHS and the agencies under our umbrella, are focused on improving our behavioral health system of care so all Rhode Islanders, both youth and adults, have access to equitable, efficient and effective care,” said Acting Secretary of the Executive Office of Health & Human Services (EOHHS) Ana Novais. “RIDE with local schools, DCYF and other partners have done excellent work to establish this program and we are thankful to SAMHSA for allowing us to expand our reach.”

“The priority of the Department of Children, Youth and Families is to promote child and family wellbeing and strong communities for all Rhode Islanders,” said Acting Director Kevin Aucoin. “We are very excited about the expansion of Project AWARE through this grant. Project AWARE has been integral in strengthening community engagement, in children’s behavioral health interventions, deepening the understanding of child mental health among teachers and school personnel and connecting children and families to effective mental health supports within the communities where they live.”

The announcement comes just weeks after RIDE announced it has been awarded a four-year, $3.8 million cooperative agreement through SAMHSA to increase access to evidence-based, culturally responsive, and sustaining trauma support services and mental health care in schools.

These investments will also underpin a network of programs offered supporting the mental health of students and educators, including the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence course to support the education community as they navigate additional stressors and emotional support needs in the wake of the pandemic. The course, which is available now, is offered at no cost to educators. Further, in partnership with RIDE, Pure Edge has offered more than 70 professional development sessions in support of educator well-being for over 5,000 Rhode Island participants since 2019. Pure Edge will continue to provide open-source resources and sessions for local education agencies.

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