The Town of Reading and the Reading Public Schools is pleased to announce that they have received three Federal grants totaling $1,975,000 to address the health, wellness, and social emotional well-being of our students.
The first grant is a Drug Free Communities Grant which is a five year grant at $125,000 per year. This grant was awarded to the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse (RCASA). The goals and strategies of this grant are as follows:
- Reduce barriers for underrepresented individuals to participate in the coalition.
- Train Leaders in the Strategic Prevention Framework and Environmental Strategies.
- Provide opportunities for Leaders to apply skills learned at training.
- Enhance staff and Board’s capacity to build the coalition’s financial infrastructure.
- Increase access to culturally and therapeutically diverse pain management sites.
- Provide an easy access point for residents to turn in unwanted medications 24/7.
- Increase skill-building opportunities for students in grades 6-12 on prescription drug and underage drinking prevention.
- Improve local medication safety and prescription drug based monitoring practices
- Improve Educators, School Specialists, Clergy and Youth Workers ability to address youth that are in crisis and/or under the influence of prescription drugs
- Reduce youth access to alcohol through enhanced Alcohol Compliance Program.
- Enhance parental monitoring of adolescents in grades 6-12
- Provide disincentives to use alcohol on Reading Memorial High School grounds.
The second grant is awarded to the Reading Public Schools and is a two year, $50,000 per year grant to provide mental health first aid training to staff. This grant will allow the Reading Public Schools to train eight instructors that will certify 584 school educators, school support staff, first responders, youth workers, and faith leaders in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) and Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) in Reading, where the prevalence of untreated mental health and substance abuse is significant. Data gathered through the 2013 Reading Youth Risk Behavior Survey (grades 6-8) indicated high rates of prevalence involving self-injury, bullying, binge drinking and prescription drug misuse. High school (grades 9-12) rates for underage drinking, illegal drug use and eating disorders were 2-6% higher than state and national averages. About 23% reported bullying at school, much higher than the state rate (18%) and U.S. rate (20%) and students were 4% more likely to experience cyber-bullying than the state average. Twenty-one percent reported self-injury higher than the state rate of 18% (U.S. rate not available). Thirteen percent reported suicide attempts, much higher than the state rate (7%) and U.S. rate (8%), of which 45 students attempted suicide two or more times. Behavioral health community forums conducted in 2012 involved residents who expressed concern about teens dealing with “stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, drug-related violence, untreated mental illness”. In the past two years, the district has experienced a sharp increase in students hospitalized for mood disorders, personality disorders, self-injury, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and substance abuse. At the high school, since September of 2012, there have been 40 psychiatric hospitalizations recorded by administrators. The proposed YMHFA and MHFA training will greatly improve early identification of mental health needs and increase referrals to local community agencies. A part-time paid grant coordinator will organize training, monitor certification, enhance pathways to mental health referral, and support recommended mental health assessment and/or treatment.
The third and final grant is also awarded to the Reading Public Schools and is a School Climate Transformation grant. This grant is for $250,000 per year for five years. The purpose of this grant is to implement a full service, high quality, multi-tiered system of supports for all PreK-12 students. The following are the goals or projected outcomes for this project:
Goal 1: Build capacity for supporting the sustained and broad-scale implementation of a multi-tiered behavioral framework (MTSS) in each school across the district through the successful creation of district, building leadership and collaborative teams.
Goal 2: Enhance sustainability of continued data-driven decision making and communication through the successful alignment and implementation of a school wide information system, Baseline Edge, in every school district-wide.
Goal 3: Enhance each school’s ability to offer comprehensive behavioral health supports through the creation of a high-quality, full service multi-tiered system of supports, consisting of extensive offerings of supports and interventions at every level and school.
Goal 4: Build continued capacity of school-based staff through the successful integration of an aggressive professional development and coaching program focused on building teachers’ skills and competencies in the use of a multi-tiered system of supports and behavioral health topics.
Goal 5: Evaluate the effectiveness of project activities at the school and district level in meeting the needs of students and in improving outcomes for students using quantitative and qualitative evaluation methods.
Reading was only one of 72 school districts in the country, and only three in Massachusetts, to receive this grant. In addition, we were only one of 22 school districts in the country to receive both the Mental Health First Aid and School Transformation grants.
For further information, please go to the U.S. Department of Education Link. Congratulations to RCASA Executive Director Erica McNamara and Administrator for Student Support Services Sara Burd for their efforts in applying for these grants.