State budget includes funding for school mental health counselors – ABC NEWS 4

School hallways. (File/WCIV)

DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) — 

Between education, salaries and healthcare, there’s a lot up for debate in the state’s proposed spending plan.

The $9 billion budget includes some funding for more mental health services in schools.

There’s $2.2 million allocated to hire 90 mental health counselors to travel from school to school statewide.

Most school districts within the state already have mental health services, including telemedicine, thanks to partnerships with various entities including MUSC and the Department of Mental Health.

“The age has no barrier, we could be talking about a student who is in Kindergarten or a student who is in high school,” said Dr. Toni Cappelletti, Ph.D., executive director for Special Services in Dorchester District Two. “Mental health counselors are very important. They serve the students’ emotional needs and they are varied in today’s world, our children have many varied and unusual problems from anxiety, depression and PTSD.”

Last year, 718 students in DD2 received mental health services. Roughly 1,300 received care within the Charleston County School District.

Cappelletti said the need is only growing.

“We have 25 schools and we have counselor support in every school, some of them serve two schools,” she said.

At any given time, there’s 46 mental health counselors available to CCSD students, according to a district official.

CCSD employs 40 school psychologists and 145 school counselors, traditionally known as guidance counselors. The district has a partnership with MUSC.

The Berkeley County School District has 11 mental health workers and eight social workers, not including school psychologists or guidance counselors. BCSD contracts services with Berkeley Community Mental Health Center.

While Cappelletti applauds state legislators for any allocated money toward student mental health, she said the issue needs a lot more attention.

She’s hopeful the stigma surrounding mental illness will eventually dissipate as more and more people engage in the conversation.

“I’d like to see school districts fully allocated for mental health counselors relative to the need so a large school would have two, maybe even three mental health counselors,” she said. “The earlier children [get] mental health support, the more prevalent their learning will be, they’ll be more successful in school and in life so I would love to see early, early service mental health.”

The proposed state budget is up for debate in the statehouse.

After a vote, it will head to the Senate for debate.