Wake County Schools to vote on plan for additional student mental health resources

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wake County Public School System could vote on expanding mental health services during a board meeting Tuesday night.

The district's plan includes extending suicide awareness training among staff and increasing licensed specialized instructional support personnel, such as counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses. It also includes improving communication and marketing of family wellness and self-care sessions.

If adopted, the plan would be implemented in the 2021-2022 school year.

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"For me personally, I have more kids on my caseload than I've ever had, and it continues to be related to being out of school, all of last year, or most of last year," said Renee Avis, a licensed clinical mental health counselor in Wake County. "So school services absolutely need to be expanded in the Wake County schools, to support all mental health needs."

Due to state legislation and a state board of education policy, K-12 school units must adopt and implement a school-based mental health training program and suicide risk referral protocol.

Wake County mother Jessica Lewis has a child who experienced suicidal thoughts. She feels it was tied to the isolation of virtual learning during the pandemic.

She thinks more mental health services are needed in schools.

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"Because a lot of parents might not have the money to pay for outside therapists," Lewis said. "My son is going to an outside therapist. It's not cheap. So I think the more resources in the school building for kids to talk to would be beneficial."

According a document included in the district board's agenda, they must report to the Department of Public Instruction by September 15 about the content of the school mental health improvement plan adopted, including the mental health training program and suicide risk referral protocol, and prior school year compliance with requirements of the policy.
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