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New North Carolina School Behavioral Health Action Plan aims to address youth health crisis

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RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, today released the North Carolina School Behavioral Health Action Plan to address the urgent mental and behavioral health crisis facing youth through key investments in our schools.

Schools play a critical role in supporting the health of students by providing convenient access to behavioral health supports for youth. This is particularly important in North Carolina, as more than half of its youth with mental health disorders do not currently receive necessary care and more than half of the state’s counties do not have a child psychiatrist.

“Addressing the youth mental health crisis requires a commitment to meeting children where they are,” said NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “That’s why we are investing in our schools, so our teachers and school staff have the tools they need to help prevent behavioral health crises through early intervention and prevention. It is one of the core strategies highlighted in Governor Cooper’s roadmap for a $1 billion investment in behavioral health and resilience.”


In addition to highlighting the critical funding needed to hire more school nurses and social workers throughout the state, the plan describes six investments in evidenced-based strategies and pilot programs to support the behavioral health of students. The strategies are designed to increase access to behavioral health supports, provide flexible resources to address local priorities and build partnerships with community providers to meet student needs.

The investments outlined in the plan include:

  • Increasing capacity of schools to identify and address behavioral health needs through student-focused prevention and support services.
  • Training school personnel to better recognize and respond to emerging behavioral health issues.
  • Establishing school-based telehealth pilot programs to expand behavioral health care access for approximately 10,000 students in high need and rural districts.
  • Flexible funding to local School Health Advisory Councils to support coalitions of parents, school staff and community members investing in behavioral health resources to meet local needs.
  • Connecting schools and families with behavioral health partners in their community.
  • Funding a new statewide electronic health record system to secure student health records and enable records to transfer when students move.

Investments in school behavioral health are a core strategy of Governor Cooper’s roadmap for a $1 billion for behavioral health and resilience announced on March 8, 2023.

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