Mental Health Department Wants More Counselors In Schools

Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The Department of Mental Health is asking state lawmakers for a million dollars to put more mental health counselors in public schools.

Mental health has been talked about more than ever after recent incidents around the country and officials say the one million dollars will allow them to put 40 more mental health counselors in schools.

The school based mental health counselors have different responsibilities than that of guidance counselor.

Mark Binkley with the department says that mental health counselors are trained clinicians that are able to work hands on with students that exhibit behavioral issues.

Last year the general assembly gave the department a million dollars for the program and they were able to add 62 schools to the 461 schools where counselors work,

"Obviously when kids are having problems or behavioral problems, most of them just suffer in silence or possibly act out in ways that could get them expelled or their school work suffers," said Mark Binkley, Spokesperson for the Department of Mental Health.

Binkley says the department and the school districts split the salary costs for the mental health counselors.

He says during the recession the program took a hit and now there is a need for more mental health counselors

If the new funds are granted the program would serve more than 15,000 children.

"That kind of data suggest that kids that go through this program, their attendance improves, their disciplinary problems decrease, their grades improve and again these are professional counselors they are going to access the child and if the child doesn't need professional treatment they are not going to receive it," said Binkley.

Binkley says no counseling occurs without the parents written consent.

The general assembly will review the request and grant or deny the funding at the end of the legislative session.


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