October 20, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has awarded the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) a multi-million dollar grant to support West Virginia children. The Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) State Education Agency Grant from the DHHS Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is a 5-year, $9 million award that supports comprehensive plans of activities, services and strategies to decrease youth violence and the healthy development of school-aged children. The West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health (BBH), Marshall University and West Virginia University will partner with the WVDE and collaborate with Cabell, Clay and Harrison counties on the project.

The AWARE program builds upon the successful strategies of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) Initiative that have been effective in creating safe and secure schools and promoting the mental health of students in communities across the country. These strategies foster stronger working relationships between state and local entities so that policies and programs are implemented more effectively. Additionally, these collaborative efforts lead to the creation of safe and respectful environments for learning while promoting youth mental health.

Project AWARE required the selection of three local education agencies (LEAs) as partners on the project. The LEAs were to demonstrate readiness and willingness to work collaboratively with the state partners and were also required to demonstrate need based on a variety of demographic criteria.

The WVDE and its partners—specifically, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Behavioral Health, Marshall University’s Center of Excellence for Recovery, and the West Virginia Prevention Research Center—will work closely with many state and local organizations over the next five years.

“The WVDE recently established the Office of Student Support and Well-being (OSSW) to coordinate services for the whole child and to ensure each student has at least one caring adult that keeps them connected to the school system,” says State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “The Project AWARE grant, along with the incredible support from our partners, will greatly strengthen OSSW’s collaborative infrastructure and West Virginia’s community networks to harness resources, best practices, momentum and expertise. This is critical as we prepare children for post-secondary options whether that be education, employment or enlistment.”

“This grant will build upon the long-standing partnership of WVDE and BBH,” said Christina R. Mullins, Commissioner of DHHR’s Bureau for Behavioral Health. “Our work will infuse the selected county education offices with Expanded School Mental Health and other services and supports that have proven to be essential resources for West Virginia’s children.”

For more information, contact Christy Day at the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at 304-558-2699 or Christy.Day@k12.wv.us.

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