The Center for Indigenous Health and Chinle Unified School District (CUSD) will launch Project AWARE Wildcats (PAWs), a program to promote mental and behavioral health and expand access to services for students. Project PAWs builds on the relationship built between the Center and CUSD as part of Project SafeSchools and the COVID-19 pandemic response efforts.
Consistent with the National youth mental health crisis, community-based mental and behavioral healthcare services are not sufficient to meet needs of Chinle’s student population. Analysis by the Center for Project SafeSchools has found that Native American students are four times as likely as their non-Native peers to experience depression, anxiety, and social-emotional challenges, a pattern exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The PAWs project aims to address this crisis by provided students with trauma-informed, culturally-based, and recovery-oriented mental and behavioral health services. School counselors and support personnel will engage with students to provide tiered services that promote wellbeing. District staff will be trained to implement trauma-informed practices, and parents, families, and community members will be equipped with strategies and resources to expand the trauma-informed approach beyond the school setting. With proper support at school and home, the PAWs project will provide the resources needed to properly support students’ mental and behavioral health in Chinle and surrounding communities.