The coronavirus pandemic forced millions of students around the globe into remote and virtual learning. But studies now show that it has caused significant, negative impacts on students’ mental well-being.
Three county school systems in West Virginia and their education partners are receiving hundreds of thousands of federal dollars this year, and every year over the next five years to tackle the mental health needs of their K-12 students.
Fayette, Logan and Wirt counties will each receive more than $470,000 every year, totaling more than $1.4 million in each of those counties by the end of the five-year period.
Multiple partners, including the West Virginia Department of Education’s (WVDE) Office of Student Support and Well-Being, Marshall University’s Center of Excellence for Recovery, West Virginia Bureau for Behavioral Health, WVU Prevention Research Center and others, will collaborate to provide support to the designated local education partners (LEA) in Fayette, Logan and Wirt counties, according to a news 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 are struggling with navigating the effects of COVID-19,” said State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch. “Providing concrete supports, expanding school connectedness, implementing prevention education and increasing social-emotional competence are all important protective factors that will be offered through the work of the state’s Project AWARE teams.”
The AWARE grant, which stands for Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education, is giving the WVDE $9 million to be used to support and increase wellness and resiliency in West Virginia students.
“Ultimately, we hope that these factors will help guide our students through this pandemic and help make them happier and healthier,” Burch said.
Specifically, the grant will help pay for school personnel to receive training on how to identify and respond to mental health needs, according to the WVDE.
Additionally, of that $9 million, the WVDE said $345,726 will go to the non-LEA partners, and $28,911 will be set aside by the state to administer the grant and program.
This award builds on an existing network created through a 2020 AWARE grant, which included local education agencies in Cabell, Clay and Harrison counties. Those agencies are beginning their second year of work with the grant funds.
**Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story listed Lincoln as one of the counties to benefit from the latest AWARE grant in West Virginia. This was incorrect and should have been Logan County.