There is a distinct lack of mental health support within the school settings at this time across all three counties in the Southside areas. In Halifax County Public Schools, there are 4,691 students with only 17 school counselors across the county to provide support, approximately 276 students for every 1 counselor. In Mecklenburg County Public Schools, there are 4,093 students with only 12 school counselors, approximately 341 students for every 1 counselor. In Brunswick County Public Schools, there are 1,451 students with only 3 school counselors currently employed. This is a ratio of approximately 484 students to every 1 school counselor. Due to educational standards and requirements from the department of education, these counselors are often utilized for testing as opposed to mental health support. For these reasons, Southside Behavioral Health has been awarded approximately $100,000 in one-time funding from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to kickstart school-based services, including prevention and treatment.
SBH hopes these services will increase accessibility to and awareness of mental health services, improving student retention rates and successful completion rates. In our rural communities, ease of access and location are constant barriers to service even with virtual technology. Internet connectivity is poor and unreliable in our area. By taking our services to the students instead of making them come to us, we remove the barrier of location for those in need of mental health services. This initiative is also intended to help connect local families to telehealth services who otherwise may not have access to a stable network connection or available transportation. Likewise, the schools hope these services will assist with in-class discipline issues and make qualified help more available to at-risk students and their families who are struggling with behavioral issues. Additional benefits include: support services, the increased pursuit of higher education, school counselor support, increased student motivation, increased parental involvement in student success, increased student readiness, increased student enrollment, increased student retention, and better resource management.