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Rhode Island Awarded $9 Million to Support Mental Health Services for Students

Five-Year Grant Will Provide Programs and Training in Providence, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Governor Gina M. Raimondo and the Rhode Island Congressional delegation joined the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) today in announcing a $9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support stronger mental and behavioral health services for Rhode Island students. The grant proposal was submitted in partnership with the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF), and will allow the two state agencies to improve and expand services in the Providence, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket pilot districts.

“Last week, a young man was killed in Providence. His story is too familiar. There are children suffering in our communities from violence, stress, depression and serious mental health challenges, and they need our help,” said Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “This week I’ve directed BHDDH to provide trauma counseling services at various locations throughout Providence while schools are closed. This new grant money will help ensure that students continue to have access to these important services. I’m grateful to RIDE and DCYF for their leadership in making student mental health a priority.”

This five-year grant, with a $1.8 million annual allocation, will impact nearly 40,000 students in the three pilot communities, where RIDE and DCYF will work with the districts and with community partners to increase awareness of mental health issues, provide training for school personnel, and connect students and families with the mental and behavioral health services they need.

“Just as it’s important for adults who work with kids to have first aid training, it is important for them to have behavioral and mental health training and knowledge so they can recognize signs and provide proper assistance to students in need. This federal funding will boost the state’s efforts to reinforce social and emotional health in young people and deliver improved mental health services to schools around the state,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed.

“Everyone benefits when a student facing a mental health issue gets the care they need in school. It helps that young person, their classmates and teachers, and their family," said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “I’m glad these funds will help students in Providence, Woonsocket, and Pawtucket.”

“Academic achievement and emotional health are equally critical components to a student’s success,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “These federal funds will help create a more supportive learning environment by expanding much-needed behavioral and mental health services. I applaud Governor Raimondo for her leadership on this important issue, and I congratulate RIDE for winning this competitive award.”

“Making sure young people have access to mental health services is incredibly important,” said Congressman David N. Cicilline. “This funding will help ensure that vital resources are available to students and their families in the Providence, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket school systems when they need these services.”

In Rhode Island, 19 percent of children ages 6 to 17 have a diagnosable mental health problem, and 10 percent have significant functional impairment. With this federal funding, RIDE and DCYF will establish stronger partnerships with mental health treatment providers to ensure alignment between school-based services and community supports and resources. The grant will also build internal capacity in the districts by providing awareness, training, and collaboration opportunities that enhance early intervention and ongoing supports for students struggling with mental health issues.

“As a former school psychologist, I know how critical school-based mental health services are to identifying and helping our kids who need it most,” said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Students cannot perform at their best unless they are in a safe and supportive environment, and that kind of positive school culture is possible only if we talk about mental health issues and give our students the tools and support they need to thrive.”

“Teachers, counselors, and other school personnel must have the resources they need to support the children in their care, and all students deserve access to quality mental and behavioral health services,” said Trista Piccola, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families. “We look forward to working together with our partners to strengthen our state’s services, to give youth and their families the supports they need to be safe and healthy.”

The grant proposal was submitted with the assistance and support of the Rhode Island Department of Health and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

To summarize the goals of the grant proposal:

  • Increase access to behavioral health services, particularly for youth with Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED) or Serious Mental Illness (SMI). Policy and programmatic changes will begin in the pilot districts, with the intent to promulgate policies statewide
  • Provide school-based mental health programs, staffed by behavioral health specialists, to screen, provide early intervention, and provide ongoing services
  • Raise awareness and identification of mental health issues, promote positive mental health, and help to prevent youth violence
  • Connect families, schools, and communities to increase engagement for planning and implementing behavioral health and prevention programs for school-aged youth
  • More quickly identify students and respond to their needs if they exhibit behavioral or psychological signs that indicate a need for clinical intervention

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