OKLAHOMA CITY (October 5, 2018) – On the heels of a trauma summit focused on equipping educators to respond to students suffering from toxic stress, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister today announced that the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) has received three federal grants totaling $12.5 million to support districts in meeting the mental health needs of their students.
“Far too many of our children in Oklahoma are enduring severe hardship,” said Hofmeister. “The OSDE stands ready to respond to districts in crisis. We are grateful that grantors recognize not only the gravity of our needs but have certainty that we will spend these critical dollars so our teachers receive the training they need to most effectively serve their students.”
In the largest of the grants, Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education), the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services awarded $8.6 million over five years for prevention, intervention and treatment services to three Oklahoma districts – Elk City, Weatherford and Woodward – selected due to the scarcity of mental health resources west of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area.
Project AWARE will provide two new counselors for each district and opportunities for established district counselors to pursue Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) credentials through a partnership with Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) in Weatherford.
The School Climate Transformation Grant, funded through the U.S. Department of Education, awards Oklahoma $3.7 million over five years. Grant funding will include the development of five technical assistance centers in Hominy, Durant, Lawton, Oklahoma City and Woodward. A behavioral specialist at each center will train 10 schools on transforming school climate through implementation of a multi-tiered behavioral framework that integrates the Positive Behavioral Intervention System (PBIS) model. In addition, OSDE will provide opioid addiction prevention training through a collaboration with the School of Pharmacy at SWOSU.
The Oklahoma Prevention and Mental Health Project, a three-year, $148,661 U.S. Department of Justice grant, will benefit 303 students in Washington Public Schools and include prevention curriculum, mental health awareness and health insurance campaigns, mental health screenings and training for teachers and families, and intervention and treatment services for students.
To ensure the greatest possible number of students will be served, the grants will use a braided funding approach. National trainers hired under the Project AWARE grant, for example, will train the School Climate specialists on mental health intervention strategies. These specialists, in turn, will provide training to the schools in their programs.
“These grants give Oklahoma the opportunity to implement prevention and intervention strategies that include the best training in the nation on mental health prevention and intervention,” said Hofmeister. “In order to lift academic outcomes, we must first ensure we have met students’ basic needs for safety, trust and security. The programs funded by these grants will provide critical data on how to improve mental health outcomes among our students that can be leveraged statewide to benefit all students in need.”