Leaders of the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) and the Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education plan to hold a roundtable with Guilford County Schools on Wednesday, April 24, to discuss the “importance of school-based resources in improving physical and behavioral health outcomes for North Carolina children and families.”

 NC DHHS now has a lot of money to spend on the problem: It obtained $835 million that’s meant to transform behavioral health care in North Carolina, and $80 million of that money is specifically targeted toward children and family well-being.

 Of those funds, this year, NC DHHS plans to invest $7 million in services –such as school-based telehealth enhancements – to make sure that all students have more access to behavioral health support and treatment.

In order to help determine the best way to use that money, there will be a “Guilford County Schools Roundtable on Improving Health Outcomes for Children and Families” that will include NC DHHS Secretary Kody Kinsley, State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson,  Guilford County Schools Superintendent Whitney Oakley, NC State Board of Education Vice Chair, Alan Duncan, and other key officials.

They’ll meet with Paul Travers, the principal of Washington Elementary, on Wednesday, April 24 to discuss the issues.

According to a press release sent this week from NC DHHS, “Guilford County Schools has been proactive in offering behavioral health in schools districtwide and adding school-based telehealth services to improve access to physical health services, particularly for students in underserved communities. This is possible through a partnership with local nonprofits, philanthropic partners, local government officials and health providers. Over the next five years, Guilford County Schools plans to invest more than $30 million to strengthen the health and wellness of students and staff through competitive federal grants and private philanthropic funding.”

State officials say the youth behavioral health crisis is growing and it is harming school functions and kids’ educations; however, they add, over 70 percent of children in the system say they don’t have access to the mental health care they need.

 Schools play a big role in providing early intervention behavioral health services, however data from 2022 shows that North Carolina schools had less than 20 percent of the school psychologists and school social workers that are recommended given North Carolina’s student population.

According to the press release, the State Board of Education “operates with the understanding that student instruction and outcomes are inextricably linked to student mental health. Accordingly, the board advocates for more funding for specialized instructional support personnel, has directed millions in federal relief funding toward mental health supports, and continues to explore ways the state education authorities can support local districts and charter schools in addressing this vital student need.”