Well, this is big news. Before you read the official news release trumpeting the $12.5 million Montana is getting, I recommend you check out this video that explains what the Montana Behavioral Initiative is and how it is changing education right here in Missoula.

Montana Wins $12.5 Million in Grants
to Address School Climate, School Safety and Mental Health Needs of Students
Helena, MT – Superintendent Denise Juneau announced today that the Office of Public Instruction has received three grants totaling more than $12.5 million to improve school climate and school safety and support the mental and emotional health of Montana students. The Office of Public Instruction was awarded a $3.75 million School Climate Transformation grant, an $8.5 million Project AWARE grant, and a $250,000 School Emergency Planning grant.

The School Climate Transformation grant ($750,000 annually) will focus on expanding the Montana Behavioral Initiative (MBI) to additional schools and improving implementation of MBI in existing schools. MBI is a proactive approach to creating behavioral supports and a social culture that establishes social, emotional and academic success for all students. MBI uses the “Response to Intervention” model, a three-tiered system of support and problem-solving process to help schools meet the needs of and effectively educate all students.

“Creating a positive learning environment is a key part of student success,” said Superintendent Denise Juneau. “All students deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and be surrounded by caring adults to help them achieve their goals. MBI fosters learning environments that produce positive results.”

The goals of the five-year school climate grant include: an increase in the number of Montana Behavior Initiative (MBI) schools, particularly high-need and Indian Country schools; strategically-located MBI coaches to support districts in implementing MBI; an increase in the number of schools using the My Voice student school climate survey; and more effective coordination of resources.

On a local level, the goals of the grant are: improvement in school climate; an increase in school safety; a decrease in bullying; a reduction in discipline referrals, suspensions, and expulsions; increased instructional time; and improved overall academic achievement. Over the five years of the grant, the OPI expects to serve an estimated 59,000 students.

The five-year Project AWARE grant ($1.7M annually) will address the mental health needs of children, youth, families/caregivers, and communities by coordinating and integrating the services of 13 state agencies, three Safe Schools/Healthy Students grantees, and three high-need school districts and their partners. Additionally, OPI will train nine state-level Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) trainers, 45 school district trainers, 75 regional trainers, and 5,000 First Aiders. The project will serve the entire state of Montana with YMHFA training.Juneau explained, “Suicide prevention and access to mental health care must continue to be a priority for those of us who work with young people. This grant will help bring schools, public programs and communities together and also provide best practices that we can share with other school districts. By making sure a child’s mental and emotional needs are addressed, this effort can change life outcomes for students and families.”

The Butte, Kalispell, and Browning School Districts will share $1.275 million of the grant annually. The communities will be served by locally-determined strategies, including provider coalitions, crisis centers, suicide prevention programs, MBI, and coordinated referral services. The remainder of the funds will go towards Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) local and regional training and program evaluation.

The key strategies of the Project AWARE grant are: to promote positive school climate and violence prevention, including bullying and electronic bullying, through the Montana Behavioral Initiative; prevent suicide through Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) training; increase understanding about mental health issues, warning signs, and early childhood/historical trauma through Youth Mental Health First Aid education; and improve access to screening, counseling, and treatment, primarily through screening provider allotments and systems integration. The project will serve more than 12,600 people per year and more than 63,000 total.

The $250,000 Montana School Emergency Planning grant will assess and address the emergency planning needs of each of Montana’s school systems and provide training, materials and support to tall schools to assist in their development and employment of Emergency Operations Programs.