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$5 Million in Grants Awarded to Duval County Public Schools to Improve Mental Health and Positive Behavior Support

Over the past year DCPS has worked hand in hand with community partners and national experts to design a better way to serve students with mental health and behavioral challenges. In collaboration with groups like United Way Full service Schools, The Chartrand Foundation, the Jacksonville Children's Commission System of Care Initiative, JASMYN, The University of Maryland and district guidance and wellness staff, DCPS has created two initiatives that together will improve student and family access to integrated community and district mental and behavioral services as well as provide school-wide training and additional personnel at the 37 Duval Transformation Office schools to support students through positive behavior strategies.

Duval County is one of only three districts throughout the state to receive a $1.5 million AWARE grant from the Florida Department of Education to improve access to integrated school and community-based mental/behavioral health services. In addition, the district received a grant award from the U.S. Department of Education for more than $3.7 million to fund STRIVE: Systemic Tiered Responsive Interventions Validated by Evidence Project, which aims to address behavioral challenges of students in 36 of the district's highest-needs' schools.

The AWARE grant will fund the AWARE 4 Duval project, which will train school based employees on how to detect mental health characteristics within their student population. "The grant will greatly assist with training all of our teachers and staff through Youth Mental Health First Aid training," said Superintendent Nikolai P. Vitti. "These funds directly align with the needs identified through our participation in the University of Maryland study and our planned efforts through the System of Care initiative.  In fact, we were chosen because of the collaboration that has already been established through that initiative. These awards signal our commitment as a district to address the mental health issues that prevent teachers from teaching and our students from focusing on their education. "

The STRIVE project, set to improve the school climate in the Duval Transformation Office (DTO) schools within the Ribault, Raines, and Jackson feeder patterns will implement a multi-tiered behavioral framework which will provide staff with universal professional development and targeted technical assistance. Anticipated outcomes of the project include decreased disciplinary referrals; increased school attendance; decreased suspensions and expulsions; an increase in Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) fidelity; and an improved school climate at target, high-need schools.

We commend DCPS and its partners for collaborating to integrate, redesign and strengthen mental health resources for student and families and transforming the culture of schools to be proactive and holistic in removing student barriers to success.

To learn more about the district's work to strengthen mental resources, visit DuvalSchools.org.

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Pam Paul