Kent State Receives $357,000 Grant to Educate University Community About Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorders

Kent State University’s College of Public Health was awarded a $357,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to fund Project AWARE Kent, a three-year Mental Health First Aid program.

The new program will educate more than 700 Kent State faculty, staff and students about mental health and substance-use disorders.

Project AWARE Kent is a collaborative effort between Kent State, the Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County and multiple Kent community behavioral health agencies to reduce the negative effects of mental health and substance-use disorders. The project will teach individuals about the disorders, including how to identify, intervene and refer individuals in need to behavioral health specialists.

“This provides a great opportunity for the university in terms of educating and promoting awareness of mental health and substance abuse problems,” says Deric Kenne, Ph.D., Project AWARE Kent director and assistant professor of health policy and management at Kent State.

To educate the large student population on the Kent Campus, Kenne and co-director Rebecca Fischbein, Ph.D., assistant professor of health policy and management at Kent State, plan to “saturate the campus” through a series of Mental Health First Aid training opportunities. Kenne and Fischbein will train eight behavioral health center and university professionals who will then administer training to the student leaders in numerous campus organizations. The student training will begin during the 2016 Spring Semester in an effort to train approximately 240 students each year. Over the course of three years, Kenne and Fischbein hope to train at least 720 students, faculty and staff.

“The goal behind this grant is to create a network of people within the community who will know how to respond and are aware of mental health and substance-abuse disorders,” Fischbein says.

Fischbein also says she hopes to see the negative perceptions associated with such disorders diminish.

Based on survey data collected in the spring of 2014, nearly one-third of students admitted that at some point during their time at Kent State, they thought about getting help for mental health problems. However, less than half followed through and sought the help they needed.

“By increasing awareness about these disorders, you’re reducing the stigmas,” Fischbein says.

For more information about Project AWARE Kent, contact Kenne at or Fischbein at

To learn more about Kent State’s College of Public Health, visit

POSTED: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 3:54pm
UPDATED: Friday, September 25, 2015 - 3:54pm
Haley Keding