Deric R. Kenne, PhD,
Associate Professor, College of Public Health
Associate Director, Center for Public Policy and Health, Division of Mental Health and Substance Use
Kent State University
College of Public Health
Center for Public Policy & Health

Black River Schools
Brunswick City Schools
Buckeye Local Schools
Cloverleaf Local Schools
Highland Local Schools
Medina City Schools
Medina County Career Center
Wadsworth City Schools
Medina County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health (ADAMH) Board


HEADLINE: Kent State College of Public Health receives $375,000 federal grant to improve student mental wellness in Medina County public schools.

PROJECT SUMMARY: Through a three-year grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Kent State University’s Center for Public Policy and Health in the College of Public Health will partner with the Medina County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Board and the seven public school districts in Medina County to improve student mental wellness. The project called, Medina County Aware (MCA), will be led by Dr. Deric Kenne, Associate Professor and Dr. Kim Laurene, Research Associate at Kent State University. The main goals of the project are to provide mental health awareness trainings to the teachers, administrators and staff at each school, create resource guides and referral mechanisms, and implement mental health stigma reduction campaigns in each of the schools. Phillip Titterington, Executive Director of the ADAMH Board said “the Board is excited to be a partner in this unique opportunity to create a county-wide approach to identifying and addressing student mental health needs.  Collaborations of this magnitude don’t always occur but when they do, great things happen.”


Mental Health Awareness Trainings: Approximately 35% of teachers, administrators and staff at each school will complete the Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training. YMHFA is an eight-hour, nationally recognized evidence-based program for individuals who work with youth 12-18 years of age. School personnel will learn risk factors and warning signs of common mental illnesses, a five-step action plan to engage with and help students, and safe and effective ways to de-escalate crisis situations. Research shows that the YMHFA training: 1) improves participants’ knowledge of signs and symptoms of risk factors for mental illness and addiction, 2) helps participants identify professional and self-help resources, 3) increases participants’ confidence and likelihood to help someone distressed, 4) improves participants’ mental wellness, and 5) reduces social distance ( In addition, each school system will designate at least two school personnel to be certified as YMHFA Instructors, which will allow those school systems to continue the YMHFA trainings after funding ends.

Resource Guides and Referral Mechanisms: Project staff, relevant school personnel and the Medina County ADAMH Board will meet to review existing (if available) or develop new behavioral health referral source lists and referral mechanisms that are specific to each school system (i.e., process that teachers and staff should go through to make a referral). Project staff will create a referral guide for each school. This individualized school specific referral resource and referral mechanisms guide will be explained and distributed to teachers, administrators and other school personnel who attend the YMHFA training. Information will be made available to schools in both hardcopy (e.g., pamphlet) and electronic (e.g., website) forms.

Mental Health Stigma Reduction Campaign: A mental health stigma-reduction and awareness campaign, Hear to Help, will be implemented in each school. Hear to Help, which is modeled after the nationally-recognized Campus Pride Allies/Safe Zone campaign, but seeks to reduce stigma, increase awareness, and encourage individuals to support those who live with mental illness. Teachers, administrators and other school staff who complete the YMHFA training receive the Hear to Help logo (e.g., desk placard, magnet, sticker) to display in their classroom or office. The logo allows students to identify safe/supportive school personnel that they can go to for support and assistance. Posters, social media and other forms of media will be used to raise awareness of mental health and reduce stigma. Project personnel will work with each school to develop a custom social marketing/mental health awareness campaign to educate students and school staff on the purpose of the Hear to Help logo.

Funding: Support for the 3-year project is being provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. All goals and objectives of the project are fully funded, including funding for mental health awareness trainings, stigma reduction and awareness campaigns, resource guide development, and YMHFA Instructor certification.

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