South Dakota Department of Education Logo. Link to homepage.         A-Z Index      Contact Us

Project AWARE

(Advancing Wellness and
Resilience in Education)

Project AWARE is a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), through which the South Dakota Department of Education and South Dakota Department of Social Services - Division of Behavioral Health are partnering with school districts and community mental health centers to improve access to mental health services.

Project AWARE is built on an interconnected systems framework based on the research from Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports.

Mission statement:
Our mission is to enhance partnerships through an interconnected system of education, mental health, and community which support and promote wellness, resilience, and tools to empower students, families, educators, and school staff.

Vision statement:
South Dakota students and their families are empowered to thrive in a stigma-free and connected community through sustained partnerships at the state and community level.

Meet the Project AWARE Team

Pilot Partnerships
The first cohort of participants began receiving behavior and mental health supports through the grant in October 2018:

The Project AWARE grant is built on an interconnected systems framework, the base of which is home and community awareness, with the goals of de-stigmatizing mental health issues through awareness training, building self-healing, trauma-informed communities, and creating community partnerships.

Tier 1: Universal prevention, incorporating universal behavioral health screenings and support for school/home partnerships, trauma-informed training for school staff, Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, and other prevention activities

Tier 2: Targeted interventions, such as one-to-one or small group interventions

Tier 3: Supports for students in need of wraparound services

Evidence-Based Services/Programming

A series of evidence-based practices and programming have been identified to address each step of the multi-tiered systems of support for South Dakota Project AWARE. These practices and programming include the following:

  • NAMI Ending the Silence Program
    This training is available to all South Dakota schools at no cost. NAMI-SD (National Alliance on Mental Illness-South Dakota) offers a 50-minute program which is appropriate for middle and high school students. In the presentation, a young adult living with a mental illness tells their story about mental health challenges, including what hurt and what helped, and how they are living in recovery. A lead presenter also shares information that helps students understand mental health conditions and warning signs, as well as how to talk to caring adults to get help for themselves and their friends. To request a training, complete this form. Questions? Contact the DSS Division of Behavioral Health, 605-367-5236.
  • Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support
  • Second Step Curriculum
  • Social, Academic, and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener
  • Sources of Strength
  • Trauma-informed Communities
    This training is available to all South Dakota schools at no cost. Schools and school districts may request trainings for educators or school communities by contacting the Advocacy and Prevention Program Director at the Children's Home Society (CHS) to provide the date, time, location, and desired training option. One or all options are available to districts. Virtual options are available. Tifanie Petro at Children's Home Society would be contacted to schedule a session at
  • Youth Mental Health First Aid
    This training is available to all South Dakota schools at no cost. Designed for adults who regularly interact with adolescents (teachers, administrators, coaches), this eight-hour program introduces participants to the risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents, builds understanding of the importance of early intervention, and teaches individuals how to help an adolescent in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge. YMHFA meets the suicide awareness and prevention training requirement for educator certification. To request a Youth Mental Health First Aid training for your school, complete this form. Questions? Contact the DSS Division of Behavioral Health, 605-367-5236.
Parent/Caregiver Resources

Project AWARE partnered with South Dakota State University to develop a 3-part video series on Nurturing Child and Adolescent Development and Mental Health. The videos provide concrete strategies for practicing positive parenting to foster healthy child development and promote positive mental health. The video guide provides an overview of the content, supplemental resources, and timestamps for convenient accessibility.

For more information, contact Project Coordinator Rebecca Cain with the SD Department of Education.