Northam announces $3.75 million grant to improve learning in schools hit by opioid crisis

opioid crisisVirginia has received a five-year, $3.75 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to improve outcomes and support services for students in rural school divisions most affected by the opioid crisis.

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) will receive $750,000 each year of the grant—beginning this school year—to expand the number of school divisions implementing the Virginia Tiered System of Supports (VTSS). VTSS is a model for improving learning environments that includes evidence-based practices, tools and strategies to address the academic, behavioral and social-emotional needs of students.

“Every child deserves an education that will set them up for success in life, but many students face unique challenges that require specialized resources within our schools,”said Governor Northam. “The VTSS approach fosters supportive learning environments that allow our children to thrive and reach their full academic potential. This funding will help a growing number of Virginia school divisions and community partners fully adopt this program and ensure that we can meet the individual needs of each student no matter who they are or where they live.”

The grant will fund training and resources to support VTSS implementation in 12 rural divisions with significant levels of opioid and other substance abuse, and will also support training to improve implementation in 15 divisions that have already adopted VTSS.

Grant-funded activities will focus on the following objectives:

  • Develop curriculum, training materials and resources for the network of state VTSS implementation coaches, especially in the areas of mental health and substance abuse prevention;
  • Increase the capacity of resource-limited, rural school divisions to implement VTSS by expanding professional development and coaching; and
  • Align VTSS implementation in school divisions with other efforts to improve school learning climates, including bullying prevention, culturally responsive teaching, social and emotional learning, and supports for students who have experienced trauma.

VTSS comprises three tiers of support to improve school learning climates. Tier-one or “universal” services—the least intensive—meet the academic, behavioral, social and emotional needs of a majority of students. Tier-two services, such as supplemental instruction, are provided to up to 20 percent of the students. And tier-three supports—including intensive, individualized instruction and services—are needed by up to five percent.

“VTSS is based on the simple idea of providing the services and supports that students need to succeed at the time they need them,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.

Currently, 564 schools in 64 school divisions are implementing VTSS.

Last month, Governor Northam announced that Virginia was awarded $15.8 million State Opioid Response grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The SAMHSA grant will support local opioid abuse prevention, treatment and recovery efforts in the state.

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