R.I. Department of Education receives $9M federal grant to expand youth mental health services

PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Department of Education, partnering with the R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families, announced Friday that it has received a $9 million federal Project Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education grant to expand youth mental health services in the Cranston, West Warwick and Westerly school districts.

RIDE said Project AWARE’s purpose is to increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth, as well as provide school personnel training to detect mental health issues and connect affected families to needed services. The department said it received the first such grant in 2018, administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, to launch pilot mental health programs in Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket.

The R.I. Delegation also announced another $1.8 million Project AWARE grant earlier this week that will go toward training school workers in Rhode Island to detect mental health issues, boosting awareness of mental health issues among students and connecting providers to students with behavioral health needs.

Now, the new seven-figure federal grant will expand programs to help the 24,330 students within the Cranston, West Warwick and Westerly districts, RIDE said. In a statement, Gov. Daniel J. McKee said this grant is a major step toward improving youth mental and behavioral health across the state.

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“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,” McKee said.

R.I. Board of Education Chair Barbara Cottam said in a statement the COVID-19 pandemic has had a real and concerning impact on some students’ mental health. Addressing the mental health needs of school communities and ensuring their well-being is the board’s top priority, she said.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.