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Project Cal-Well

A project to promote mental health awareness and wellness among California's kindergarten through twelfth grade students.

A federal grant to increase mental health awareness and promote wellness among K-12 students in California. Project Cal-Well is a consortium between the California Department of Education (CDE), ABC Unified School District, Garden Grove Unified School District, and San Diego County Office of Education. By the end of 2019, Project Cal-Well would improve access to and availability of mental health services among the three Cal-Well districts, and train a minimum of 3,000 Youth Mental Health First Aiders throughout the State.


Project Cal-Well is a five-year grant funded under the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's "Now is the Time" (NITT) Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) State Educational Agency grant External link opens in new window or tab. to improve mental health awareness among students, parents, school and district staff, and communities; provide professional development that supports mental wellness to school and district personnel; and connect students and families to needed services. California was one of 20 states to receive this grant in 2014. The Project NITT-AWARE grant is provided to states to develop a comprehensive, coordinated, and integrated partnership with multiple service systems to help address critical mental health needs of students.

Project Cal-Well is a consortium of the CDE and three grantee local educational agencies (LEAs), selected through a competitive process to support the statewide efforts:

  • ABC Unified School District
  • Garden Grove Unified School District
  • San Diego County Office of Education

Project Cal-Well Funding Results (2018-19)
Project Cal-Well Funding Results (2017-18)
Project Cal-Well Funding Results (2016-17)
Project Cal-Well Funding Results (2015-16)
Project Cal-Well Funding Results (2014-15)

Project Cal-Well strives to achieve the following goals:

  • Promote mental health awareness, well-being, early identification, and early intervention of behavioral health issues through cross-system collaborations.
  • Increase access to and availability of school and community-based supportive services for students within the Project Cal-Well LEAs.
  • Promote positive school climate by utilizing research-based violence prevention and positive behavioral intervention programs in the Project Cal-Well LEAs.
  • Implement Youth Mental Health First Aid training at both the state and community levels.

Project Cal-Well utilizes the existing Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup, convened by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2011, to serve as the required State Management Team to assist in the development and implementation of grant requirements. Comprised of over 30 appointed members representing stakeholders from state and local levels, the SMT supports cross-system collaborations to address the overall mental health well-being of our children and youth.


A key component of Project Cal-Well is to deliver free Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training to district and school staff statewide. YMHFA is a research-based curriculum created upon the medical first aid model. It is designed to provide parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, neighbors, and other caring adults with skills to help a youth who may be experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge or is in crisis. YMHFA participants learn to recognize signs and symptoms of youth in emotional distress, initiate and offer help, and connect the youth to professional care through a five-step action plan.

Unless it is used as a refresher, YMHFA training is not intended for staff with a mental health background such as school psychologists, social workers, clinicians, etc. due to its basic nature. The ideal audience includes teachers, administrators, nurses, counselors, and any other credentialed staff, classified staff (school secretaries, registrars, yard supervisors, campus monitors, bus drivers, lunch staff, janitors, aides, after school staff, etc.), parents, youth employers, and other community partners that have contact with students.

This no cost, eight-hour training can be delivered at in either in one day or two consecutive four-hour days (trainings available on weekends and in Spanish). The CDE is seeking public, charter, and private schools, districts, and community organizations to host YMHFA training. For more information, please reference the letter from the SSPI which encourages county, district, and charter school administrators to take advantage of this free training.

To host YMHFA training for your staff, submit your request to


The California Department of Education contracts with the University of California, San Francisco’s Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies to conduct an independent evaluation of Project Cal-Well program activities. The following data collection instruments were created to assess the social emotional wellness and mental health needs and perceptions among students and school staff:

UCSF Project Cal-Well Web page External link opens in new window or tab.
Additional project briefs and survey results from the California Principal Mental Health Survey can be found at the above link.

A Guide to Increase Mental Health Servies for Students (DOCX)
This guide is created by Project Cal-Well, with input from the Student Mental Health Policy Workgroup, to assist schools and districts to build capacity to better address mental health challenges among students

Mental Health Resources
Resources to address coping with tragedy, crisis intervention and prevention, school psychology, and suicide prevention.

School Mental Health Referral Pathway Toolkit External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
Provides best practice guidance and strategies to support schools in referring and coordinating mental health services for students under a multi-tiered system of supports.

Positive School Climate
Resources to create an engaging, safe, respectful and challenging school environment.
  • Safe and Supportive Schools
    Provides tools, resources, and external links to proven strategies to improve school safety and climate through a successful pilot project on 58 high schools.
  • School Climate Improvement Resource Package External link opens in new window or tab.
    A variety of resource guides developed by the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments.
  • Fix School Discipline External link opens in new window or tab.
    Research, toolkits, and resources to promote positive disciplinary measures in lieu of student suspensions.
Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS)

PBIS provides a tiered intervention framework to deliver evidence based strategies to address student disciplinary issues.

Restorative Practices

Strategies on relationship and community building to prevent and address conflicts, and repair harm as a result of student behaviors or wrongdoings.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

Cultivating social and emotional competencies among students have shown to improve student motivation, reduce problematic behavior, and improve school climate. 

Trauma Informed Practices

Resources to help educators create trauma-informed schools and compassionate classrooms

Comprehensive Safe School Planning

The California Department of Education recommends that schools integrate mental health services through collaborative partnerships and/or include youth suicide prevention and postvention services into their school safety plan.


School Climate Connection Newsletter External link opens in new window or tab.
A monthly newsletter on school climate and mental health resources, trainings, and information.

K-12 Mental Health Listserv

To receive information about the K-12 Mental Health Services Act Prevention and Early Intervention planning and implementation process, send a blank message to

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Questions: Hilva Chan | | 916-319-0194 
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, August 20, 2019
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