The Arkansas Department of Education announced Wednesday that it has been awarded a $9 million grant from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration to develop and support school-based mental health programs in the state.
ADE will receive approximately $1.8 million each year for five years to fund the Advancing Wellness & Resilience in Education program, which will:
- Develop comprehensive school mental health programs in three pilot locations: Texarkana School District, Marvell-Elaine School District and Ozarks Unlimited Resource Educational Service Cooperative;
- Develop a statewide infrastructure of support and training for school personnel in the Mental Health First Aid, Trauma Informed Schools and Adverse Childhood Experiences programs and initiatives; and
- Promote a safe, supportive and positive school environment for students, staff, educators and the community.
“This grant comes at an especially significant time, as we are studying ways to keep our students safe at school,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a news release. “The money will allow the department to seek training for educators that will equip them to recognize and address issues of substance abuse and mental health in schools. This awareness is essential to keeping our schools safe.
“We must take the administrative load off of school counselors so that they are free to interact with students and to counsel those in need of that attention. This is one of the most important things we can do to ensure that our schools are as secure as we can make them …”
ADE Commissioner Johnny Key said in the release, “This grant gives ADE an opportunity to provide leadership and support to schools and educators around the state to address critical mental health and school safety concerns. Through Arkansas AWARE, we will build partnerships with stakeholders to enhance the prevention and intervention components of a safe school environment, resulting in increased safety and learning for all students."
The grant will allow ADE to develop a formal partnership with the Arkansas Department of Human Services’ Division of Behavioral Health Services. ADE also will collaborate with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, Arkansas State University, and the National Council for Behavioral Health and Center for School Mental Health at the University of Maryland.