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WRAL Morning News
WRAL WeatherCenter Forecast
Published: 2021-12-01 17:29:45
Updated: 2021-12-01 17:29:45
Posted December 1, 2021 5:29 p.m. EST
By Emily Walkenhorst, WRAL education reporter
Raleigh, N.C. — Most North Carolina public charters and school districts now have plans to address mental health issues on campuses, the state Department of Public Instruction reported Wednesday.
Schools largely reported progress on implementing new requirements for training educators on mental health issues. A few dozen districts and several dozen charter schools, however, did report still needing to implement plans to help students with their social and emotional learning.
The new efforts are a part of a new state and law and state policy to ensure students’ mental health can be addressed on school campuses.
They’re intended to help children, who have for years in North Carolina and nationwide experienced higher suicide rates and reported worsening mental health.
School-based mental health services, often provided through informal contracts with outside behavioral healthcare providers, are growing nationwide. In some states, nearly all schools have an agreement with an outside care provider. Some schools employ mental health care providers. Medicaid will often pay for services at schools, but private insurance coverage varies.
Services have grown in part because educators and health professionals acknowledge children’s therapeutic or psychiatric session attendance improves when the services are offered at their school.
The Wake County Public School told WRAL News it’s working on a memorandum of understanding for a pilot program for mental health services on campus. District officials recently closed a request for proposal for the services.
The Wake County Public School System currently doesn’t bring mental health care providers to schools but refers students to them.
Spokeswoman Lisa Luten said the pilot will start at 27 schools, serving about 400 students, if a provider can be at each school for one to two days per week.
“This pilot will bring providers to the school to help provide students easier and direct access to needed clinical services,” Luten said.
Last month, Wake County Board of Education Member Monika Johnson-Hostler said the mental health plans were a challenge for some districts but said they’re also an opportunity. Rural school districts are getting telehealth services for students, she said.
Johnson-Hostler is a mental health advocate, leading the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“The concern for me is the alternative for our older adolescents is ending up in prison” if they can’t obtain mental health help, she said. “They ask for help and we can’t provide it.”
A new state law
A state law passed last year, SL2020-7, required schools to develop “school-based mental health plans.” The State Board of Education later created a school mental health policy and model for how schools should comply with the law.
Schools’ plans were due Sept. 15 to DPI. WRAL News requested the plans Sept. 17, but DPI said it would not provide the station with the plans, which have been public record for months, until after they had presented a summary of them to lawmakers.
DPI officials mentioned results of their review of plans and surveys on the plans during a presentation to the State Board of Education on Wednesday.
Only six of 116 public non-charter schools and districts reported not having a plan. Another 35 reported having only partial plans.
Of the state’s 204 charter schools, 200 provided information to DPI. Of those four reported not having a plan, and 112 reported having only partial plans.
Schools are also required to have mental health training programs and suicide prevention protocol, and 21 and 22 school districts, respectively, reported not having those. Another 72 and 56 charter schools, respectively, reported not having those.
The biggest need identified to address student mental health issues is implementing “social-emotional learning,” according to a report set to be presented Thursday. Most schools did not report that need, but 46% of districts and 45% of charters did. Additionally, 35% of districts and 30% of charters reported needing professional development fo social-emotional learning and mental health.
Social-emotional learning is the incorporation of social and emotional intelligence skills into everyday schooling. A teacher could do that by asking students to identify their feelings or to identify a book character’s feelings and then discuss them.
Most charters and districts reported complying with training requirements on substance abuse, youth mental health, teenage dating violence and prevention of suicide and sex trafficking and abuse. The percentage was the lowest — 92% of districts and 77% of charters — in training to recognize and respond to teenage dating violence.
Most charters and districts reported having some memorandum of understanding with an outside entity for mental health referrals or services. About 35% of charters and 3% of districts reported not having one.
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