Friday, the Tennessee Department of Education announced the state received a $4,655,699 Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education) grant to boost mental and behavioral support for students in three Tennessee school districts- Bledsoe County Schools, Haywood County Schools and Scott County Schools – in partnership with the Tennessee Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), this grant funding will provide training for school personnel to detect and respond to mental health needs and provide students and their families with additional services and supports. The training will also be available to other adults within the community who interact with school-aged children.
“All Tennessee students deserve to experience rich classroom learning experiences, and schools and districts have an important role to play by ensuring their students have the supports they need to focus on and absorb every drop of learning they possibly can,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Districts that have participated in previous years of this grant have shared their success, and we are thrilled to continue helping educators across the state best support their students and communities.”
SAMSHA’s Project AWARE aims to build state and local collaborative infrastructure to plan and implement mental health partnerships between schools and communities with the goal of increasing mental health awareness while promoting positive school climates through the implementation of school policies, evidence-based programs, and mental health interventions.
“Haywood County Schools looks forward to implementation of the AWARE grant in our district,” said Joey Hassell, Director of Schools, Haywood County Schools. “Through the grant, HCS will expand the continuum of school- and community- based behavioral health support and interventions to more effectively address the mental health needs of our student population. Our ability to respond proactively to youth mental health concerns will result in improved outcomes linked to achievement, attendance, and behavior.”
In 2014, three Tennessee school districts piloted Project AWARE for a five-year period: Lauderdale County Schools, Lawrence County Schools and Anderson County Schools. Additionally, in 2019, four more districts were selected to receive grant funding, including Cocke County Schools, Fayette County Schools, Hickman County Schools and Lake County Schools.
“Funding from the Project AWARE grant has helped address a critical need in our community and we are thankful to the department for providing the initial funding and also to our local board for recognizing the importance of this work by continuing the programming to serve our students,” said Shawn Kimble, Director of Schools, Lauderdale County Schools. “The programming developed through the initial grant funding and continued through local efforts is having a huge impact on meeting the academic and nonacademic needs of our students and ensures we have resources in place to serve our school communities.”
“Cocke County is most gracious to be part of the AWARE 2019 cohort,” said Manney Moore, Director of Schools, Cocke County Schools. “With AWARE funding we have provided three Student Support Specialists and an AWARE director position to our school district. The funding has also allowed our severely distressed county the opportunity to provide important mental health resources to our students. Those resources can be as simple as helping with basic needs for the student and their family, intervening in non-crisis and crisis situations and making referrals to community mental health professionals. Our district staff continues to receive training on whole-child initiatives so that we can intervene early. We must continue to identify barriers to learning and connect our students to support systems than can improve academic outcomes for all students.”
The funds will cover the cost of programming for a three-year period, and additional funds from SAMHSA will extend the grant until 2026. Read more about Project AWARE here.