The proposed project, Seminole Tribe of Florida (STOF) AWARE-SEA (SM-19-003, CFDA 93.243), will develop and implement school-based programs to enhance the identification, prevention, and treatment of emotional and behavioral disorders among STOF school-aged youth who attend the Lead Education Agencies (LEAs). To attain this, tribal members will be provided with counseling, training, and community outreach efforts that are considered Evidence-Based Practices (EBP) to identify and address the warning signs of mental health and substance abuse disorders. Prevention programs will train educators and other youth-serving adults to detect and respond to mental health issues, improve school climate, increase parental and familial awareness of mental health, and expand existing mental health and behavioral services and supports for school-aged youth.
Nationally, the rate of substance dependence/abuse among American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) over the age of 12 was higher than any other population and 17% of AI/ANs aged 3-21 receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Similarly, many STOF Members experience academic/intellectual challenges, expressive/receptive language deficits, emotional/behavioral disturbances, and/or physical disabilities. STOF families experience high rates of school dropout, with only 260 students receiving college support services from the STOF Executive Administrative Office-Center for Student Success and Services (EAO-CSSS) and approximately 20 college graduates per year. We posit that these rates of high school and college graduation can be increased if more students are provided with the mental health support they may require to be academically and socially successful.
The STOF Health and Human Services (HHS) clinical team, in collaboration with EAO, will implement the AWARE-Mental Wellness Program using multiple EBPs with a “Whole School” approach. This approach recognizes the impact of trauma and mental health issues in students’ lives and allows the focus to be placed on learning, skill-building, resiliency, and time in the classroom. Curricula and EBPs are targeted across all grades served and include the integration of all staff, parents, and community mental health services to provide age appropriate, culturally sensitive services. The EBPs to be utilized are Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) and a modified Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools (CBITS) curricula—both of which incorporate student input, a SAMHSA requirement. Importantly, CBITS will be employed to target traumatized children in the 5th and 12th grades.
The proposed additional staff will enable STOF HHS and EAO to annually: increase the number of students who either are referred to or receive school-based mental health services by 10%; increase the number of school staff and community members trained in mental health stigma reduction methods by 500; and increase the percentage of students who report feeling safe and or a positive school climate by 10%. The population of focus is the 731 students and 300 families within the three STOF LEAs. Achieving success in these goals reduces the risk of intergenerational trauma and substance abuse, which then increases the likelihood of an improved quality of life for STOF Members and their families.