In 2014, the New Hampshire (NH) Department of Education received nearly $10 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, to implement Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education) over five years. These funds were included in the President and Vice President’s Now Is the Time plan to increase access to mental health services and make schools safer.
The project served approximately 4,000 children, youth and families per year (20,000 over five years) and trained approximately 700 youth-serving adults per year (3,500 over five years) in partnership with three Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) in New Hampshire (Berlin Public Schools, Franklin School District, and SAU #7). These districts were chosen after meeting the selection criteria and demonstrating readiness to engage in the required activities, as well as willingness to work collaboratively with the state in the development and implementation of the comprehensive plan.
The goals of Project AWARE-NH include the following:
- Provide Youth Mental Health First Aid and Mental Health First Aid training to teachers, athletic coaches, playground attendants and others who can detect and respond to mental health issues;
- Use a multi-tiered framework that reduces school violence, bullying, behavior problems, suspensions, substance abuse and punitive/exclusionary discipline practices;
- Reduce the need for intensive treatment, out-of-home placement, hospitalization, or incarceration of children and youth in each region;
- Substantially improve the engagement of school, families, and youth in decision-making at the policy, practice and individual levels.
In 2022, the NH Department of Education (NH DOE) continues to lead this effort through the Office of Social & Emotional Wellness, which is part of the Bureau of Student Wellness and Nutrition, Division of Learner Support, in partnership with the Bureaus of Student Support and Instructional Support as well as the Bureau for Children’s Behavioral Health within the NH Department of Health and Human Services.
This ongoing project provides technical assistance to Local Education Agencies in three regions of the state as they (1) Build and implement a multi-tiered behavioral framework; (2) Establish local student wellness teams; and (3) Collect and report data in an effort to inform additional efforts to address the needs of their students.
This initiative serves students in the South West, South Central, and South East regions of New Hampshire. Through participation in this effort, each LEA creates a comprehensive plan of evidence-based, culturally competent, and developmentally appropriate school- and community-based mental health services through the development of a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for behavioral Health and Wellness (MTSS-B), identifies opportunities to strengthen professional development and training amongst staff and community providers, and receives technical assistance to advance and sustain comprehensive school mental health efforts through the adoption of policies, practices, and programs that address both in-school and out-of-school time.
Local jurisdictions served within NH’s Project AWARE initiative include: 1) SAU 34: Hillsboro-Deering in the South East Region; 2) SAU 81: Hudson in the South Central Region; and, 3) SAU 33: Raymond in the South West Region. Each LEA represents a region of the state that is fully exploring the use of a Multi-Tiered System of Support for Behavioral Health and Wellness (MTSS-B) for comprehensive school mental health. The three local jurisdictions identified for this project include an estimated student population of 5,835.
NH’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Behavioral Health and Wellness (MTSS-B) model is based on the public health pyramid approach of providing supports universally, to a targeted group, and intensively to those with the highest need. It blends research-based school mental health practices and social-emotional learning with Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). NH’s MTSS-B is a “way of doing business” that puts into place proven school- and community-based behavioral health practices so that every student can achieve health and wellness and be successful in school. MTSS-B employs a systemic, continuous- improvement framework integrating school behavioral health practices across all levels of the educational system for supporting every student.