PRESS RELEASE: Maine DOE Awarded $5.5M Grant to Support Student Mental Health Initiative

The Maine Department of Education has been awarded a 5-year grant (1.1 million per year) from SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The funding will go towards an initiative called Maine-AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) aimed at helping Maine develop a comprehensive framework and infrastructure to support student mental health through effective state and local collaboration between education and health providers.

The project is grounded in a belief that strong implementation of evidence based universal positive behavior and social emotional learning supports coupled with universal behavioral health screening can help schools and communities focus intensive resources on students and families with the greatest need. The project also aims at developing coordinated support services at the school level so that school clinical capacity is maximized and well-articulated with the community’s therapeutic resources.

The framework for building a statewide comprehensive approach to student mental health will be gained through the experiences of an initial implementation with three school administrative units (SAU) which will serve as pilot sites for the initiative: Calais School Department, RSU 10, and RSU 40. They were selected prior to the application submission and are representative of the challenges faced by Maine’s school districts. Factors considered in the selection were geographic location, rate of uninsured children, data from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (mental health and substance use), local employment of a licensed clinical social worker, and existing relationships with community mental health agencies.

The primary goals of Maine-AWARE are to:

1. Tier I: Ensure that all students have access to evidence-based social emotional learning (SEL) strategies, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), and screening for behavioral health needs.

2. Tier II: Provide students and families identified as at increased risk of negative academic and behavioral outcomes with team-based school and community supports, targeted interventions, and indicated mental health screening.

3. Tier III: Provide targeted, evidence-based clinical interventions to youth and families experiencing serious mental or behavioral health disorders.

4. Systems Building: Implement a comprehensive workforce and infrastructure development plan to provide technical assistance on evidence-based behavioral and mental health interventions and an effective statewide implementation strategy.

The Maine Department of Education will be working in collaboration with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Child and Family Services on the Maine-AWARE Initiative.