DHHS, Department of Education Team Up for Project AWARE

News Release
For Immediate Release: 3/16/2022

Julie Naughton, Office of Communications, (402) 471-1695 (office); (402) 405-7202 (cell);

Lincoln – For rural educators in Nebraska City, Lexington, and Valentine, mental health help for their students is on the way.

The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) and Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services - Division of Behavioral Health (DHHS-DBH) are collaborating with three Local Education Agencies (LEAs) of Lexington, Nebraska City, and Valentine to improve school-based mental health services.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 5 children (22 percent) living below 100 percent of the federal poverty level have a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.

“Early diagnosis and appropriate services for children and their families can make an enormous difference in the lives of children," said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “By partnering with the Department of Education on this project, many children in Nebraska will receive the help they need."

"The NDE is honored to be awarded an additional Project AWARE grant," says Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt. “We are excited to build upon the great work being done by the LEAs participating in the first AWARE grant with the three additional LEAs partnering on this new grant."

Nebraska's Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education - State Education Agency (AWARE-SEA) 2.0 follows AWARE-SEA Project 1.0 from FY 2018, which brought these programs to Chadron, South Sioux City, and Hastings. FY 2022 Project will have the opportunity to build upon the successes and lessons learned from the initial grant.

AWARE-SEA Project 2.0 addresses the high level of mental and behavioral health needs of school-aged children in rural schools, including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and trauma. Educators statewide have reported feeling unprepared to handle the severity of mental health issues arising daily in schools. Training programs for school staff to better address students' mental and behavioral health needs have been requested by many school districts.

Each of the LEAs have strong, long-standing track records of successful collaborations with state and local partners, including mental health providers, community organizations, the business and private sector, and stakeholders, including students and families.

The project's goals include:

  • Prevention of mental health and behavioral disorders among students by providing positive, supportive, and trauma-informed learning environments
  • Increasing student resilience and pro-social behaviors
  • Increasing availability of school-based mental health services
  • Increasing schools' capacity to identify and immediately respond to the mental health needs of students exhibiting behavioral or psychological signs requiring clinical intervention
  • Increasing schools' capacity to identify and intervene in bullying and aggressive behaviors of students which may contribute to school violence.

Through the implementation of evidence-based, trauma-informed practices in mental health screening, assessment, interventions, and treatment, up to 5,227 students will be served through the project each year. Selected practices to enhance school climate, student resilience and pro-social behaviors, such as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), will be employed in each of the three districts, accompanied by Functional Behavioral Assessment and Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS).

Need to talk or get immediate help in a crisis? Help is available. If you or a loved one need assistance, please reach out to:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 para Español
  • Your faith-based leader, your healthcare professional, or student health center on campus.
  • Nebraska Family Helpline – Any question, any time. (888) 866-8660
  • Rural Response Hotline, (800) 464-0258
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 (oprime dos para Español) or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

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