What is Project AWARE?

the White HouseShortly after President Obama discussed new policy proposals to reduce gun violence, there were quite a few news articles about something called Project AWARE. What is it? After doing some research, it appears to be the name of the plan to help make mental health care more accessible to people who need it.

Recently, I posted a blog that discussed part of the Obama Administration’s plan to reduce gun violence. Since this is the Special Needs Blog, I focused on the parts that related to improved access to mental health care.

Today, I saw several news article about something called Project AWARE. It turns out it was mentioned in the official White House Gun Proposals document that was sent to the New York Times before President Obama made his remarks on January 16, 2013. You can scroll through the entire document here.

Project AWARE stands for Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education. There are 2 parts to this initiative. The first part is to reach 750,000 young people through programs to identify mental illness early and refer them to treatment. The second part is to ensure coverage of mental health treatment.

Here’s how the proposed funding would be allocated:

$15 million for training for teachers and other adults who interact with youth to detect and respond to mental illness in children and young adults, including how to encourage adolescents and families experiencing these problems to seek treatment.

$40 million to help school districts work with law enforcement, mental health agencies, and other local organizations to assure students with mental health issues or other behavioral issues are referred to the services they need.

$25 million for innovative state-based strategies supporting young people ages 16 to 25 with mental health or substance abuse issues

$25 million to offer students mental health services for trauma or anxiety, conflict resolution programs, and other school-based violence prevention strategies.

$50 million to train social workers, counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals. This would provide stipends and tuition reimbursement to train more than 5,000 mental health professionals serving young people in our schools and communities.

The proposal also involves a national conversation to increase understanding about mental health and to remove the shame, secrecy, and stigma that is currently attached to it. Other parts of the proposal are already included in the Affordable Care Act.

The Administration will issue final guidelines regarding governing how existing group health plans that offer mental health services must cover them at parity under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equality Act of 2008.

The Administration is also intending to issue a letter to state health officials making it clear that Medicaid plans must comply with the mental health parity requirements.

Image by Sean Hayford O’Leary on Flickr