September 23, 2021
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A multi-million-dollar federal award will assist the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) to increase mental health supports for children. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded the WVDE a five-year, $9 million Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education (AWARE) grant to support and increase wellness and resiliency in West Virginia students.
During the pandemic, the mental health needs of children have increased significantly as they have spent more time away from their schools during remote and virtual learning. As a result, support structures that underpin their academic, developmental and social-emotional well-being are often reduced or removed when they are most needed.
The AWARE grant aims to increase capacity at the state and local agency levels to bring awareness and provide training for school personnel so that they may respond to and support the mental health of school-age children and their families. The funding will provide an opportunity for the education partners to secure full-time, licensed mental health providers, professional development for staff, evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies, social-emotional learning programs and supports for students, and to establish or expand relationships with community resources.
Multiple partners, including the WVDE’s Office of Student Support and Well-Being, Marshall University’s Center of Excellence for Recovery, West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health, WVU Prevention Research Center and others, will collaborate to provide support to the designated local education partners in Fayette, Logan and Wirt counties.
“The funding provided by SAMHSA could not have come at a more critical time as our students, their families and educators are struggling with navigating the effects of COVID-19,” said State Superintendent of Schools W. Clayton Burch. “Providing concrete supports, expanding school connectedness, implementing prevention education and increasing social-emotional competence are all important protective factors that will be offered through the work of the state’s Project AWARE teams. Ultimately, we hope that these factors will help guide our students through this pandemic and help make them happier and healthier.”
This award will build upon the existing network created through a 2020 AWARE grant which includes the local education agencies in Cabell, Clay and Harrison counties. Those agencies are beginning the second year of their efforts and have already leveraged the AWARE funds to make positive impacts on the access to mental health care. Additionally, these counties have increased efforts to support the mental health of students, and the communication and collaboration between organizations that serve West Virginia’s youth and their families.
For more information, contact the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Communications at 304-558-2699 or by emailing Christy.firstname.lastname@example.org.