Grant to help schools focus on mental health

 

NAUGATUCK — Borough schools will be taking more steps to help students address mental health issues thanks to a state grant.

Naugatuck Public Schools is one of three school districts in the state to receive funding from the Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education) grant.

Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke said the grant, which is designed to address mental health in schools, was awarded to the state by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The state in turn awarded the grant to three school districts — Naugatuck, Windham and Middletown, she said.

The Board of Education will receive $275,000 a year over the next five years to implement programs that will focus on the mental health of students.

The grant is designed to help districts build school-based mental health programs and a partnership between the schools and families in the community, Locke said. She said the district will begin to implement the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence’s RULER (Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing, and Regulating emotions) program this year utilizing the grant funds.

According to the center, the program aims to provide a positive climate that allows students and adults to improve emotional skills, such as discussing their emotions, in school.

Locke said the program includes guides, such as a mood meter, to teach students to express how they are feeling and how to regulate their emotions.

This year, Locke said, the district will focus on ensuring staff members are familiar with the program. The district will formally roll out the program in classrooms in next school year, she said.

In addition, the grant will pay for school counselors, social workers and psychologists to participate in professional development in order to better handle the mental health needs of students, Locke said.

“So, when this grant money goes away, we have the people in place with the professional skills that they need to continue the service,” Locke said.