Skip to main content


October 10, 2018
For More Information Contact:

JP O'Hare

(518) 474-1201



New York State Education Department and State Office of Mental Health Awarded $1.8 Million for Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education Project

Schools in Brooklyn, Buffalo, and Rensselaer Selected to Participate

The New York State Education Department and the State Office of Mental Health will be awarded $1.8 million to increase mental health support in schools, the agencies announced today in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week.  The grant, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is a 2018 Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) award and is intended to expand the capacity of states to detect and respond to mental health issues in school-aged youth.

"For our students to perform at the highest level, we have to educate the whole child including understanding mental health in relation to physical health," Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said.  "The Board of Regents and I applaud the implementation sites for their willingness to collaborate with the Department and for recognizing the important role that mental health plays in a child's education and for participating in this extraordinary project."

“Building on our recent commitment to promote a positive school climate and assist schools with implementing social and emotional learning benchmarks, this grant will allow us to bolster our efforts and provide students with a healthy learning environment to help them succeed,” State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said.  “When we provide school staff with the tools to identify and address mental health issues, we are giving the students the ability to get support early on and ultimately have a better learning experience.”

“Children learn best when they are prepared and ready for school. This includes having good social and emotional health and wellness,” Commissioner Ann Marie Sullivan stated.  “The Office of Mental Health is looking forward to deepening our existing partnership with the State Education Department and working together to bring evidence-based practices focused on wellness and resilience into more schools in New York State.”

The State Education Department selected Rensselaer City School District, Burgard High School in the Buffalo City School District, and the Whitelaw Reid Educational Campus, located in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn to participate in the first phase of the program based on a data analysis of need and consent to participate. 

Phase One will award each school district implementation site more than $300,000 to work with the Department and OMH to implement evidence-based trainings for school staff. The purpose of the trainings is twofold. First to increase recognition of, and competency in, addressing mental health issues and, second, to increase the identification, screening and referral of students and their families to culturally competent and developmentally appropriate school-based and community-based mental health services. 

The school district implementation site will also work to increase outreach to, and engagement of, school-aged youth and their families in school-based and community-based mental health education program planning and develop a sustainable infrastructure for mental health services by building on existing resources and identifying new ones.

The project will use the existing SAMHSA Systems of Care Framework, which is a coordinated network of services and supports that are organized to meet the physical, mental, social, emotional, educational and developmental needs of children and their families in each community.

In Phase one, all school staff in all three schools will be trained in the Evidence-Based Practice Mental Health First Aid, an educational program that introduces school staff to the risk factors that often play a role in mental illness and the warning signs; and Youth Mental Health First Aid, an educational program that introduces participants to the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents, builds understanding of the importance of early intervention, and teaches individuals how to help an adolescent in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge. Child Study Teams, typically consisting of the school social work staff, school psychologist, special education chair and administrators, will receive targeted training on systems of care and will be oriented to the pathways to care for youth in need of services.

In Phase Two, all schools will be trained in Trauma Informed Practices, which is an approach that recognizes and acknowledges trauma and its prevalence among youth, alongside awareness and sensitivity to its dynamics, in all aspects of school operations. Also, the New York State System of Care team at NYS OMH will provide training in High Fidelity Wraparound for local Health Home Care Management Agencies.

The Education Department and Office of Mental Health will identify a contractor to conduct state and school-level evaluation of Project AWARE through a competitive Request for Proposal process, as required by New York State law. The successful applicant will evaluate the effectiveness of the three subrecipient LEAs, as well as the State-level partnership between the agencies.  Each agency will also hire a full-time coordinator. The schools are expected to also hire a project manager with the grant funds.

Mental Illness Awareness Week is Oct. 7–13, 2018. Each year, the first full week of October is dedicated to fight the stigma associated with mental illness, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care.