• Warren, Bullitt and Henderson counties to get pilot project funding

(FRANKFORT, KY) – The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), in partnership with the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, announced May 9 the award of a $9 million federal grant to increase awareness of mental health issues among Kentucky students across the state and in three pilot school districts.

KDE and the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities, which is in CHFS, will receive the Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) grant. The funding is from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Center for Mental Health Services. It will provide resources for the implementation of districtwide mental health policies and processes in Bullitt, Henderson and Warren County public school districts. Kentucky is one of only four states receiving the award.

“The mental health and wellness of Kentucky’s students is critically important,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis. “This grant will provide support for planning and programming aimed at increasing awareness and providing needed training and services to support the healthy development of students.”

“Just as injury or illness can disrupt a student’s life and impede learning, mental health plays a significant role in a student’s social development and success in the classroom,” said CHFS Cabinet Secretary Adam Meier. “We are excited to partner with KDE on this innovative project to bring mental health services into more schools. It is critical that we address these issues so we can have safe, trauma-informed environments where all students can learn and thrive.”

The partnership will work to enhance school mental health supports, provide Youth Mental Health First Aid training, implement trauma-informed practices and generally improve social emotional skills for all students in the districts. The project will serve 37,556 students annually for five years and impact 375 school administrators, 3,292 school staff and more than 1,000 parents and community members.  

 “We know that 1-in-6 students experience mental health challenges that impact their academic achievement. However, less than half of them receive adequate treatment,” said Wendy Morris, commissioner of the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities. “Partnerships between schools and local mental health providers allow identification and referral systems to be built so concerns can be detected and addressed earlier, which creates the best opportunity to help the student. When our youth thrive, our communities thrive!”

These efforts come at a critical time, as educators and communities begin implementing the requirements of Senate Bill 1 (2019), the School Safety and Resiliency Act. The legislation, which sought to improve the school safety climate in Kentucky through the increased use of both school resource officers and mental health services, goes into effect on July 1.

“This is incredible news for Kentucky,” said Sen. Max Wise, SB1 sponsor. “Physical and psychological support are the cornerstones of school safety reform. Senate Bill 1 includes prevention and intervention components that promote wellness, resilience, and encourage a positive culture of connection between students and adults. This legislation would not be effective without the hard work and dedication of mental health professionals.”