Mental Health Support in 3 W.Va. County School Systems

The coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of students around the world into distance and virtual learning. But studies now show that it has caused significant negative impacts on the mental well-being of students.

Three West Virginia County school systems and their education partners are receiving hundreds of thousands of federal dollars this year and each year for the next five years to meet the mental health needs of their K-12 students .

The counties of Fayette, Lincoln and Wirt will each receive more than $ 470,000 each year, for a total of more than $ 1.4 million in each of those counties by the end of the five-year period.

Many partners including West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) Student Support and Welfare Office, Marshall University Center of Excellence for Recovery, Office of Behavioral Health of West Virginia, the WVU Prevention Research Center and others, will collaborate to provide support to Designated Local Education Partners (LEAs) in Fayette, Logan and Wirt counties, according to a press release. .

The money comes from a grant funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

“The funding provided by SAMHSA could not have come at a more critical time as our students, their families and educators struggle to deal with the effects of COVID-19,” said State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch . “Providing concrete supports, widening connection to school, implementing prevention education and increasing socio-emotional skills are all important protective factors that will be offered through the work of the AWARE project teams of the State. “

The AWARE grant, which stands for Advancing Well-Being and Resilience in Education, gives WVDE $ 9 million to be used to support and increase the well-being and resilience of students in West Virginia.

“Ultimately, we hope these factors will help guide our students through this pandemic and make them happier and healthier,” said Burch.

Specifically, the grant will help pay for school staff to receive training on how to identify and respond to mental health needs, according to WVDE.

Additionally, of that $ 9 million, the WVDE said $ 345,726 will go to non-LEA partners, and $ 28,911 will be set aside by the state to administer the grant and the program.

This award builds on an existing network created through an AWARE 2020 grant, which included local education agencies in Cabell, Clay and Harrison counties. These agencies begin their second year of work with grant funds.

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