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BOLIVIA, N.C. – Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center Foundation was awarded a $400,000 grant over three years from The Duke Endowment to provide telemedicine and telepsychiatry services to middle school students in crisis. Novant Health collaborates with Brunswick County Schools staff to complement existing services and fill service gaps in behavioral and substance use disorder treatment for Brunswick County students in sixth through eighth grade. The program aims to provide early intervention to quickly address crises and support students with severe symptoms of depression, anxiety and/or trauma, in addition to connecting families with appropriate care.
As part of the program, secure telehealth devices have been provided to each of five participating middle schools. When a teacher observes a student potentially in crisis, the teacher will direct the student to the appropriate school counselor or behavioral support team member. The staff person will assess the student and, when appropriate, make a virtual connection to a Novant Health mental health therapist for additional counseling and referrals for care as needed.
“This partnership with The Duke Endowment will be particularly important for rural and underserved Brunswick County populations,” said Ann Caulkins, senior vice president of Novant Health and president of the Novant Health Foundation. “The improved access this program provides will result in timely interventions with life-long benefits.”
Caulkins pointed out that about 43% of Brunswick County remains rural, and the county offers one behavioral health provider per 1,120 residents as compared to the state average of one per 410 individuals. During the 2018-2019 school year, Brunswick County middle schools reported more than 2,500 office discipline referrals, and middle school students were more likely to threaten harm to self or others as compared to elementary and high school students.
"This collaboration will increase accessibility for mental health services for our students in order for them to be more successful in school," said Melissa Quinlan, executive director of exceptional children and student support services with Brunswick County Schools.
"The goal of this grant is to decrease health disparities by giving more students access to timely and essential services," said Lin Hollowell, director of Health Care for The Duke Endowment. "Longer-term, we hope this pilot will lead to an effective mental health intervention that could be replicated in other schools and districts."