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New behavioral health resources offered to NC schools at no cost

Behavioral Health in the classroom
LA Johnson
Concerns about students’ mental and behavioral health have increased in recent years. A new resource has opened up for schools to address these challenges.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Humans Services (NCDHHS) launched a free service for schools across the state to address behavioral health needs. To receive the service, schools must be enrolled in StrongSchoolsNC COVID-19 Program, which offers free COVID-19 testing to schools.

Since the start of the pandemic, 70% of schools have reported an increase in students seeking mental health services and 76% of schools reported an increase in teachers voicing concerns about students exhibiting symptoms of depression, anxiety and trauma, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

"The pandemic has impacted our students in many ways, including more students struggling with mental and behavioral health issues," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt.

The NCDHHS service provides free training for teachers and connects school officials with a child psychiatrist to discuss youth struggling with suicidal thoughts, emotional distress, and aggressive behaviors.

The program is available through NCDHHS’s North Carolina Psychiatry Access Line (NC-PAL).

“Now, staff in 130 schools will have direct access to psychiatric experts who can help them better support our students," said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. "Expanding access to psychiatric experts is one of the many ways we are investing in behavioral health as well as the well-being of children and families across North Carolina."

Access to mental health services is a barrier for rural communities, according to the National Rural Health Association, and school-based care is one pathway for policymakers to supply care in areas that lack mental health services.

The following Eastern North Carolina school districts and charter schools are enrolled in the program:

Beaufort County Schools
Children’s Village Academy
Craven County Schools
Dillard Academy
Duplin County Schools
East Carolina Community School
Eastern NC School for the Deaf
Pitt County Schools
Wilson County Schools

Ryan is an Arkansas native and podcast junkie. He was first introduced to public radio during an internship with his hometown NPR station, KUAF. Ryan is a graduate of Tufts University in Somerville, Mass., where he studied political science and led the Tufts Daily, the nation’s smallest independent daily college newspaper. In his spare time, Ryan likes to embroider, attend musicals, and spend time with his fiancée.