UNION COUNTY, N.C. — Students in Union County Public Schools can start seeing a mental health expert virtually in the next few months.
The Union County Board of Education voted unanimously to team up with Atrium Health to offer mental health services to high schoolers. The board entered into a 15-month contract for Atrium Health to create a School-Based Virtual Therapist program (SBVT).
"We have some, some children that don't have that access, and the schoolhouse is the number one primary place where they might be able to receive it," said Superintendent Andrew Houlihan.
The virtual therapist program would supplement mental health therapists currently working in the district.
As of now, UCPS has nine mental health therapists. There are an additional 11 mental health therapists provided to the district through the Union County Behavioral Health Collaborative.
"Currently, the caseloads are completely maxed out, we have a minimum of 25 students to every single mental health therapist with a waitlist after," Houlihan said.
In 2021, the United States Surgeon General issued an unprecedented health advisory on youth mental health. It called for a “swift and coordinated response to this crisis as the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.”
High school students in summer classes could be the first to use the program. The district is giving Atrium Health a three-month trial period to implement the SBVT program. Five high schools that serve about 6,500 students will be the first to participate, including:
- Forest Hills High
- Monroe High
- Parkwood High
- Piedmont High
- Sun Valley High
"Our primary position would be to offer an in-person therapist when possible, this is a secondary option based on the demand that we have," Houlihan said.
The district will pay $180,815 for the contract. The contract will be for 15 months and officially begin in the fall of 2022.
Contact Shamarria Morrison at email@example.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.