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Rhode Island Department of Education Receives $9 Million Federal Grant to Expand Mental Health Issue Awareness and Support Programs

5-year award, administered through SAMHSA’s Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education), expands RIDE’s partnership with RI DCYF to the Cranston, West Warwick and Westerly districts

Providence, RI - The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) today announced that it, in partnership with the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth, and Families, has been awarded a second $9 million Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) grant to expand youth mental health services in the Cranston, West Warwick and Westerly school districts. Recently, Rhode Island’s Congressional Delegation announced that RIDE would receive $1.8 million in federal funding to strengthen youth mental health as part of this grant.

“Today’s announcement is a major step towards improving youth mental and behavioral health services in all of our 39 cities and towns,” said Governor Dan McKee. “This funding will allow us to engage students, educators, and community members in order to keep our kids safe. I am going to continue to work closely with our federal delegation and RIDE to ensure that every child has access to the mental health resources they need.”

“We must ensure schools have integrated behavioral and mental health supports in place to help kids thrive in the classroom and community,” said Senator Reed. “I am pleased to help secure this federal funding to strengthen the capacity of schools and communities to detect and effectively respond to mental health, behavioral health, and substance abuse issues that kids are facing.”

“The pandemic has been a really challenging time for kids separated from their classmates and normal routines,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This significant federal award will put new mental health supports in place to ensure students have everything they need to learn and thrive as they return to school.”

“As students head back to school, I’m proud to announce this critical funding that will raise awareness about the myriad of mental health challenges facing our students and equip educators and other school personnel with the necessary training to respond to them appropriately,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “Every Rhode Island student deserves access to quality mental health resources, and I’m pleased that my colleagues and I have been able to deliver these important federal dollars back home.”

“This federal investment through the Project AWARE program will help provide critical mental health support for Rhode Island students,” said Congressman Cicilline. “It has been a difficult year for both educators and young people. This grant will help our state and school districts to be able to identify behavioral and emotional challenges kids are facing, as well as provide the necessary training to personnel to address their needs.”

"Schools are one of our first lines of defense for protecting our students’ mental health,” said Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green. “Alongside the DCYF, we are going to work to ensure that our educators have the skills and resources they need to identify and address potential mental health issues. We are deeply grateful to SAMHSA and our Congressional delegation for their continued support as we work to expand programs like this in every district of the state.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a very real and concerning impact on some of our students’ mental health,” said Board of Education Chair Barbara Cottam. “Addressing the mental health needs of school communities and ensuring their well-being is top priority for the Board. We are thankful to our Congressional delegation for their support in securing this funding that will benefit students across Rhode Island.”

“Now more than ever, we need to invest in the social emotional learning of our children,” said Education Board Member Larry Purtell. “Preparing students for the future means taking care of their mental health as well as academics. This is great news and I look forward to working Commissioner Infante-Green and RIDE on this important effort.”

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 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. Today’s grant will build on those successes and expand those programs to the 24,330 students in the Cranston, West Warwick, and Westerly school districts.

In Rhode Island, one in five (19%) children ages 6-17 has a diagnosable mental health condition and one in 10 (10%) has a significant functional impairment. The collective challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have elevated stressors and exacerbated mental health concerns statewide. 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.