Kentucky gets an $8.1 million federal grant to help teachers, other school personnel recognize students’ mental-health needs

The Kentucky Department of Education has been awarded a five-year, $8.1 million federal grant to teach school personnel how to identify mental-health issues and get students the help they need, Brenna R. Kelly reports for Kentucky Teacher.

KDE was one of 120 state and local education agencies to get an Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education grant last fall as part of President Obama’s “Now Is The Time” initiative to decrease gun violence, increase access to mental health services and increase school safety.

It is estimated that up to one out of five children living in the U.S. experience a mental disorder in a given year, according to the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine.

Gretta Hylton of KDE’s Office of Next Generation Learners believes “that both KDE and local districts will be in a better position to get students the mental health help that they need,” Kelly writes.

The grant program, Kentucky AWARE, will also create social media marketing campaigns, community events to promote mental health awareness and offer training on trauma-informed care in each of the pilot districts, to be provided by the Center on Trauma and Children at the University of Kentucky.

“More people will be able to recognize and respond appropriately to mental health issues in children,” Hylton told Kelly, “and will know how to connect those individuals with services in their hometown.”

Kentucky AWARE will be piloted in Jefferson County, Fayette County and Pulaski County schools and then move statewide. Hylton told Kelly that the three districts were chosen partly because they already have some mental-health and behavioral-intervention programs.

In addition to KDE, AWARE grants were awarded to Jefferson County, Fayette County, Bullitt County, Corbin Independent, Covington Independent and Henderson County school districts and to the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services, Kelly reports.

School personnel, first responders, parents and anyone who interacts with youth in the pilot counties will be offered Youth Mental Health First Aid training, Kelly writes. Hylton told Kelly that she expected more than 10,000 people across the state to be trained at the end of the five-year grant.

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