SC lawmakers considering spending $2.2 million to put mental health counselors in every school

Grand Strand

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW)- South Carolina law makers are deciding on what to do with their $9 billion state budget.

Lawmakers want $2.2 million of their budget to put mental health professionals in every school by 2020.

Horry County has counselors in schools every day, but they said they need more

Horry County schools have counselors from Waccamaw Mental Health and Rehabilitative Behavioral Health Services, or RBHS, helping students cope with issues they’re facing.

“This past fall, a lot of our kids lost their homes because of the flooding,” said Gretchen Smith, Co-coordinator for RBHS.

RBHS has 85 staff members  and offer individual, group, and family psychotherapy. They work with more than 1,000 students a year. 

Smith said they could use more counselors. A recent report by the ACLU said today’s school children are experiencing record levels of depression, anxiety, and trauma.

“So many pressures from social media, the achievements that some children just feel like they have to make, and the molds they feel like they have to fit in to,” said Smith.

That same study looked at nationwide data from 2015-2016 and said 1.7 million students are in schools with police, but no counselors. The study also said students are over criminalized.
Smith said more counselors can help reduce incidents and also help with school safety.

“You can often do more preventative work then. Perhaps helping the child de-escalate before they get to the point where they’re hurting themselves or someone else,” said Smith.

Last year, the school district gave RBHS eight more counselors. This year they’re asking for three more positions, which would cost the district nearly $230,000. 

Lawmakers are currently working on the budget.

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