Project ACTIVATE logo 2.0

North Carolina’s Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) also locally known as NC Project ACTIVATE (Advancing Coordinated and Timely InterVentions, Awareness, Training, and Education) addresses the three tiers of mental health (promotion, prevention, and intervention) through a continuum of education, universal screening, and appropriate services and supports for all students in response to varying levels of need. Recognizing the interrelatedness of academic outcomes and mental health/well-being of students Project AWARE seeks to provide an embedded approach within an existing system (schools) versus fragmented and reactive approaches.  Project AWARE promotes innovative service delivery based on the recommendations of the NC School Mental Health Initiative for equitable access to high quality and well-coordinated mental health and substance abuse services including 1) continuum of supports and services, 2) strategies to foster sustainability, and 3) engagement of all stakeholders.  Project AWARE/ACTIVATE aims to provide NC students in grades PK-12 with access to universal screening and supplemental support based on behavioral or psychological measures of school engagement using evidence-based practices within the classroom and school settings. 

North Carolina’s Project AWARE/ACTIVATE is a collaboration between the NC Department of Public Instruction and the NC Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Child and Family Well-Being to develop a comprehensive plan of activities, services, and strategies for connecting youth and families to mental health services in six pilot school districts. Project AWARE funding is provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  North Carolina was selected as a 2018-2023 and a 2021-2026 grantee for Project AWARE.  

Six local education agencies were selected as pilot sites for NC Project AWARE/ACTIVATE and serve as transformation zones to develop sustainable strategies that can be scaled statewide to enhance mental health supports and services within schools.  The Cohort 1 pilot sites included Beaufort County Schools which is located in the Coastal Plain region along with Cleveland County Schools and Rockingham County Schools which are both located in the Piedmont region.  Cohort 2 pilot sites include Jackson County Schools which is located in the Mountain region along with Nash County Schools and Sampson County Schools located in the Coastal Plain region.  Within these LEAs, all students in designated schools and classrooms receive instruction on universal evidence-based practices. The receipt of additional mental health supports and services is needs-based depending on assessment of student risk factors.  

To learn more about NC Project AWARE/ACTIVATE visit the profiles on the Rural Health Information Hub and AMCHP’s Innovation Hub.  


Heidi E. Austin, EdD, MCHES®, CFLE
Project AWARE Director
Office of Academic Standards
NC Department of Public Instruction