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Grants and Other Financial Assistance Programs

FY2023: Supporting Students' Social Emotional Learning (SEL), Behavioral & Mental Health, and Wellness — Competitive

Fund Code: 311


Research has shown that students' well-being is critically important to their academic and overall success. Data from various state and national sources continue to highlight the need for resources and collaboration to address the social and emotional and behavioral and mental health needs of students, families, and schools. As we continue to navigate and understand the impacts of the pandemic and our country's reckoning with racial injustice on mental well-being it is critical that we consider community and system work to address the individual and varying needs across sectors and settings.

The purpose of this state-funded competitive grant program is to adapt, expand, or strengthen multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS ) to respond to the social-emotional and behavioral health needs of students, families, and educators and to build strong partnerships with community-based mental health agencies and/or providers to create comprehensive mental health systems.

This grant aims to build capacity of school districts, charter schools, and educational collaboratives to do the following:

  • develop comprehensive, integrated multi-tiered systems for student, family, and educator social-emotional and/or mental health supports; and
  • build sustainable infrastructure to facilitate integrated coordination between school students, families, school staff, and community-based services and/or providers.

Through this grant initiative, participating districts are asked to prioritize the following areas as they relate to social-emotional and behavioral health for students, staff, and families. Applicants are expected to propose activities that align with the priorities below.

  • Racial Equity and Cultural Responsiveness: Ensure that the approach to teaching, modeling, and integrating social-emotional learning (SEL) is done from a culturally responsive lens. This includes providing professional development and coaching to staff on culturally responsive social-emotional and/or mental health practices; conducting culturally responsive, universal mental health screening and developing systems to respond to student needs in a racially equitable manner; strengthening systems to solicit student and family leadership and feedback that is fully representative of the school community and empowers voices that have been historically marginalized; and engaging students and families to ensure that social-emotional learning efforts reflect the school community's values and center racial equity. This also includes approaching this work from a community lens and not just a school perspective.
  • Universal Mental Health and Social Emotional Screening Systems-Ensure screenings are conducted to identify tier I, II, and/or III needs that are matched with strategic supports, and to create policies and protocols that are embedded in school culture and climate practices for sustainability and scalability efforts.
  • Evidence-Based Interventions and Supports: Ensure schools utilize evidenced-based social-emotional and behavioral health interventions and supports, and that staff receive the necessary professional development and coaching to implement them with fidelity. This can include a range of efforts that include but are not limited to tier 1 (universal) supports implemented by classroom teachers and tier 2/3 (supplemental, small group, and more intensive) interventions implemented by student support staff/clinicians.
  • Sustainable Systems & Partnerships: Establish and/or strengthen sustainable systems and multi-year partnerships (including students, family, community-based services and/or providers, and professional development providers, etc.).

Applicants will prioritize activities aligned, but not limited to those detailed for each of the following categories:

Coordinate Services through Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (required)

  • redesign student support staffing models to support a more proactive and deliberate multi-tiered approach to social-emotional learning and behavioral health and wellness;
  • create a comprehensive approach to tier 1 social-emotional learning and behavioral health;
  • provide robust, evidence-based tier 2 and tier 3 supports and interventions;
  • ensure all social-emotional learning and behavioral health practices, policies, and supports across all three tiers are culturally-responsive and equitable;
  • develop effective planning and feedback structures with students, families, and caregivers to ensure that social emotional learning efforts reflect the school community's values and priorities;
  • ensure the necessary systems are put in place to monitor implementation and sustain/scale successful practices and policies;
  • provide on-going professional development (including coaching) for staff members to enhance culturally-responsive tier 1 social-emotional learning for students, and recognize and respond to mental and behavioral health challenges that may arise;
  • participate in free Department-sponsored professional development (PD) to support school staff in identifying and supporting students in need of social emotional, behavioral, and/or mental health services; and
  • offer other activities aligned with the priorities of the grant.

Create and sustain partnerships with Community-Based agencies to increase Access to Services (required)

  • work with community-based providers to identify options for increased collaboration, provision of mental health/behavioral health services on site (at school) and/or in the community;
  • build infrastructure for cross-system coordination to improve integration of behavioral and mental health supports for continuity of care for children, youth and families to ensure seamless transitions between schools and communities;
  • design or implement improvements to data systems and software applications to facilitate mapping of school and community-based resources, making referrals, tracking students' use of services, monitoring the impact of services, and identify implications for future services (subject to compliance with all applicable state and federal laws regarding data security and privacy);
  • implement strategies and partnerships to foster sustained behavioral and mental health supports for students and families; these strategies should be aligned with locally-created action plans that extend beyond the grant period (e.g., funding startup costs for the initial offering of services on-site to students eligible for the Children's Behavioral Health Initiative or MassHealth, commercial insurance providers, or other sources that extend beyond the grant period);
  • develop comprehensive systems of care through written policies and practices that are sustainable and scalable; and
  • create multi-year partnership agreements with community-based and other partner organizations to support systemic approaches to address social-emotional and behavioral health needs for staff, students, and families.

Piloting Universal Mental Health Screening Systems: (optional)

DESE will allocate at least $1,000,000 of the total available funds towards this option. Applicants may apply for up to $50,000 to support the following activities:

  • pilot/implement evidence-based, universal mental health screenings for students in kindergarten to grade 12;
  • design and implement necessary data systems to collect, analyze, and report on universal screening data;
  • establish protocols for mental health support teams to: analyze and respond to universal mental health screening data, monitor the impact of supports/services and make adjustments as needed; gauge implications for future strategic planning; and ensure compliance with all applicable state and federal laws regarding data security and privacy;
  • other activities to support the priorities of this grant, provided that they are part of a coordinated approach to implement universal mental health screening and subsequent supports, and are either one-time activities that have a longer-term impact (e.g., professional development needs associated with mental health screening), and/or activities that have a reasonable likelihood of being continued and sustained beyond the grant period through other funding sources (e.g., funding startup costs for purchasing mental health screening, with the goal of sustaining these services through other sources after the end of grant funding).

Applicants choosing to participate in piloting universal mental health screening will also be expected to compile and submit an end of grant report no later than June 30, 2023, which will include the following data*:

  • number of students who received mental health screenings, delineated by demographic group and grade level;
  • number of students requiring additional support or follow-up screenings, including students who indicated suicidal ideation or intent to self-harm;
  • length of time between the initial screening and subsequent support services provided;
  • number of students referred for additional support services outside of the school district.
  • Types of screening tools used.

* The department with support from its vendors will provide a template for this report

Coaching will also be offered to grantees who choose this category.

Competitive priority will be given to:


Massachusetts public school districts (including charter schools) that were not recipients of a Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Fund Codes 613-311-332 Supporting SEL & Mental Health Grant are eligible to apply.

Funding Type:



A total of approximately $5,850,000 is available through this grant.

Applicants may apply for up to a total of $100,000 to support implementation of activities proposed to support the required priorities above. Applicants that choose to participate in a Universal Screening Pilot may apply for up to an additional $50,000.

Applicants' requests for funding should be commensurate with the scope of activities proposed and consider that grant awards are anticipated to be made official in November or December.

All grant awardees will be expected to participate in a grant kickoff meeting and two networking meetings that will be facilitated by the Department (DESE) and/or its professional development partners during the course of the grant.

Note: Efforts proposed through this grant must be supplementary and complementary to (and not supplant) what is funded through other grants/contracts.

Funding is contingent upon availability. All dollar amounts listed are estimated/approximate and are subject to change. If more funding is to become available, it will be distributed under the same guideline as listed in the initial RFP document.

Fund Use:

These funds must be used in ways that are aligned to the grant purpose and priorities described above and that have reasonable likelihood of being sustained (and/or having impact) beyond the grant period.

Fund use may include, but is not limited to:

  • Contracting with partners who provide one or more of the following services:
    • evidence-based universal mental health screening tools, data analysis, and support;
    • the design and implementation of integrated student support systems to assess the strengths and needs of all students and develop academic and social-emotional plans for students;
    • develop and support bridge programs for school re-entry after prolonged absences to promote healing, wellness, and academic success;
    • other services aligned with the priorities of this grant.
  • Professional development and coaching for staff (educators, student support staff, administrators, etc.);
  • Salaries for employees or contracted staff who will be directly supporting strategies outlined in the plan;
  • Stipends to support planning, meetings, travel, or local professional development (including DESE-sponsored opportunities); Note: out of state travel is not allowable for this grant. Travel for professional development should be directly related to grant requirements and priorities.
  • Relevant resources and/or materials;
  • Contracted services with community-based partners; and
  • Partnership coordination activities.

Fund Code 311 MTRS is Not an allowable expense on this state-funded grant.

Project Duration:

Upon Approval (anticipated mid-November/December) – June 30, 2023

Pending appropriation, and contingent upon meeting grant requirements including submitting an approvable continuation grant proposal (likely during Spring 2023), grantees may be eligible for a one-year continuation grant (FY2024 — Upon Approval (anticipated July 1, 2024) – June 30, 2024) under either Fund Code (FC) 613 or FC 332.

Program Unit:

Student and Family Support


Chris Pond

Phone Number:

(781) 338-3611

Date Due:

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Proposals must be received at the Department no later than 5:00 p.m. on the due date.

Required Forms:
Additional Information:

The Department will hold a Question and Answers Session via webinar. Use the online registration to register. During this session, the Department will answer applicants' questions. Questions may be submitted in advance of the session to with the subject line "SEL and Mental Health grant question". Due to the competitive nature of this grant, questions and responses will be shared during this session so that all potential applicants have the opportunity to hear the information.

Submission Instructions:

Please submit all required documents electronically to with the subject line "SEL and Mental Health Grant Application". Part III and the Budget should be submitted in their original Word/Excel format. Part I and Part IV should be submitted as a PDF with original signatures (signed/scanned).

Awarded Recipients: Upon award, recipients will be required to enter the approved budget and Part I in EdGrants. Once selected, recipients will be contacted with further instructions on the process.

Last Updated: September 9, 2022

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