AUSTIN, TEXAS — As part of a continued research project, The Texas Institute for Excellence in Mental Health (TIEMH), based at Steve Hicks School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin (SHS), will strengthen school-based supports for the mental health and resiliency of children.

The newly funded project, titled “AWARE 2.0,” is funded by the Texas Education Agency with original funds from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and will provide essential support for the implementation and further evaluation of mental health initiatives in schools.

Led by Molly Lopez, Ph.D. and Molly Sanders, M.A., in collaboration with the Texas Education Agency and Texas Health and Human Services Commission, this project will support the implementation and evaluation of a state and local initiative. The project will also coordinate training, communications, data collection, management, analysis, and dissemination efforts for the initiative. SAMHSA expects that this program will focus on partnerships and collaboration between state and local systems to promote the healthy development of school-aged youth and prevent youth violence.

The purpose of this program is to build or expand the capacity of State Educational Agencies, in partnership with State Mental Health Agencies (SMHAs) overseeing school-aged youth and local education agencies (LEAS), to: (1) increase awareness of mental health issues among school-aged youth; (2) provide training for school personnel and other adults who interact with school-aged youth to detect and respond to mental health issues; and (3) connect school-aged youth, who may have behavioral health issues (including serious emotional disturbance [SED] or serious mental illness [SMI]), and their families to needed services. The Texas AWARE program is partnering with San Marcos CISD, Manor ISD, and Elgin ISD to build capacity within the district and targeted campuses.

“This funding continues to support critical work that helps students and young people in general thrive,” said Lopez. “Our next phase of the AWARE 2.0 project will continue to improve mental health care and support of students in schools.”

Funding for the project, which includes a newly awarded grant of $1.6 million from SAMHSA, will continue the project through the end of September 2026.