Rhode Island Receives $8.6 Million Grant for School-Based Mental Health Services

Published on Friday, September 09, 2022

Grant to Bradley Hospital will support Project AWARE Rhode Island partnership with RIDE and DCYF to provide mental and behavioral health efforts in target districts

PROVIDENCE, RI – Governor Dan McKee, Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, DCYF Acting Director Kevin Aucoin, and Bradley Hospital President Dr. Henry Sachs today announced Rhode Island has secured a five-year, $8.6 million federal grant to support mental and behavioral health in Rhode Island schools. The funding, awarded to Bradley Hospital from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), will support the hospital in participating in the Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) partnership with the Department of Children, Youth and Families and RIDE.

“Addressing the mental health crisis among our children is of the utmost importance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Dan McKee. “The message is loud and clear: our children need us, and we must ensure every student, educator, and family have the resources they need to keep our children safe, secure, and thriving. I am grateful for Rhode Island’s strong cross-agency collaboration and Bradley Hospital’s unwavering commitment to the wellness of our children.”

“To combat the emerging mental health challenges facing our children, we must make them feel comfortable seeking and accepting help,” said Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos. “The continuation of Project AWARE will help provide that comfort and simultaneously expand access to critical behavioral health services. Let’s continue to make sure that our kids can get care at home, in school, and anywhere else they need it.”

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. RIDE received its first $9 million Project AWARE grant

in 2018 to launch pilot programs in Pawtucket, Providence, and Woonsocket. Today’s grant will allow the continuation of Project AWARE in these three districts for five more years.

“Too many children and young adults are experiencing depression, anxiety, trauma, suicidality, addiction or substance use, and other conditions that negatively impact their well-being,” said Bradley Hospital President Dr. Henry Sachs. “It is imperative that our schools are supported in having culturally-competent and developmentally appropriate mental wellness programs that can connect students in need to effective behavioral health services and interventions.”

“Preparing our students for the future means taking care of their mental health every step of the way,” said Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Patti DiCenso. “We must continue to work together to improve access to services and tear down any stigma surrounding mental illness for all of our students, from our youngest learners to soon-to-be high school graduates.”

In Rhode Island, one in five (19%) children ages 6-17 has a diagnosable mental health problem and one in 10 (10%) has a significant functional impairment.

“Even before the pandemic, national data showed a rising prevalence of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicidality and other concerns,” said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “Rhode Island has made major strides breaking down barriers to access, but there is still more work to be done so effective mental health care reaches all students, regardless of their zip code. I am thankful for our partners that collaborated to apply for this competitive grant and extend my gratitude to every educator and student working in our schools to normalize seeking support.”

Project AWARE’s program in Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket annually will impact more than 35,000 students and 3,000 school personnel as the partners implement professional and paraprofessional training, mental health related promotions (“Let It Out”), awareness, prevention, intervention, and resilience activities to ensure that students have access and are connected to appropriate and effective behavioral health services.

“Project AWARE has demonstrated proven results in increasing knowledge of student mental health and improving access to effective services and supports,” said DCYF Acting Director Aucoin. “We are very excited about the continued Project AWARE funding and the opportunity it affords to expand on the critical efforts to date to work cross agency with our colleagues in state government, education and the private sector to promote evidence-based mental health interventions for children and families. DCYF looks forward to using these funds to increase and improve access to culturally competent and developmentally appropriate school and community-based mental health services to help children achieve their educational potential and improve wellbeing.”

As part of Rhode Island’s continued commitment to better serving the mental health needs of school communities, a second $9 million federal grant in 2021 launched RI Project AWARE's second five-year cohort in Cranston, West Warwick and Westerly.

Addressing mental health issues, including the screen procedures that this grant will fund, is a major priority identified by RIDE’s Learning, Equity, and Accelerated Pathways (LEAP) Task Force as a way to improve equity in student outcomes.

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