Federal grant takes aim at reducing youth violence


— Maryland has received a five-year, $9.73 million federal grant that seeks a reduction in violence in children through a comprehensive program promoting healthy behavioral development.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently awarded Maryland one of 20 “Now is the Time Project AWARE” grants. The major new initiative supports the development and implementation of activities, services and strategies to decrease youth violence. States are required to develop an integrated and coordinated program for advancing wellness and resilience in educational settings for youth from kindergarten through graduation.

“This grant supports local school systems by teaching children strategies for better behavior to reduce youth violence,” said State Superintendent Lillian M. Lowery. “It will focus students on graduating prepared to pursue their dreams in the college or career of their choice.”

The effort will involve the development of a strategic implementation plan in three Maryland school systems: Baltimore, Dorchester and Somerset counties. In addition, MSDE will be working with State agency partners, universities, and nonprofit organizations in the training, implementation and evaluation of the initiative.

The grant project expands MSDE’s capacity to increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth, provide training for school personnel and other adults who interact with the school population, and connect students and families with behavioral issues with appropriate services. The grant increases mental health promotion, identification, and intervention in Maryland schools.

Youth Mental Health First Aid teaches a five-step action plan to offer initial help to young people showing signs of mental illness or in a crisis, and connects them with appropriate professional, peer, social, or self-help care.