New student mental health services available for schools statewide

A new program to better support student mental health launches Monday.
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 4:33 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2022 at 8:52 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A new program to better support student mental health launches Monday after a recent review of the state’s mental health services in schools found that only half of the state’s schools had mental health services.

Earlier this year Governor Henry McMaster directed the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate mental health services in schools statewide.

Jeff Leieritz with SCDHHS says after their review they found that only half the state schools have mental health services.

Over the last few years with the pandemic, there has been an increased need for mental health services for kids, but there’s been a decreased supply of counselors.

Starting Monday, schools across the state can pick up a new program to better support student mental health.

Psychology faculty at the University of South Carolina received a $3.2 million grant from SCDHHS to create the SC School Behavioral Health Academy.

Mark Weist with UofSC says SBHA will provide education for school districts, mental health providers, and youth-serving agencies across the state through online and in-person learning.

“There’s no other state that’s doing this kind of work to kind of rise the tide of mental health for all, improve student and family functioning, but also reduce barriers for student learning,” Weist says.

The SBHA will train those enrolled in creating safe schools, responding to crises, and science-based approaches to counseling.

Leieritz says their goal is to cut the ratio in half for school-based mental health providers available from 1 and 1,300 to 1 and 650.

“The primary way that we are looking to do that is through increasing the amount of funding available to be able to provide counselors in schools the flexibility to be able to hire their own counselors, continue with a DMH counselor, hire a private counselor, or do a combination of those things,” Leieritz says.

For now, this program has two years of funding, but Leieritz and Weist believe this program can be sustainable in the long run.

Leaders with UofSC and SCDHHS say they have reached out to school districts across the state to pick up this program, but if you’re interested in learning more click here.