Middle Georgia Forum to Address Unmet Mental Health Needs for Georgia’s Children to be Held Feb. 6 in Dublin, Georgia

The Carter Center, Georgia Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, and Voices for Georgia’s Children Convene Georgia’s Leading School-Based Mental Health Experts to Advance Mental Health and Well-Being in Georgia

ATLANTA (Feb. 3, 2020) - The third of six regional School-Based Behavioral Health Forums across Georgia will convene at Dublin High School on Feb. 6 (see agenda). These forums — co-hosted by The Carter Center, Georgia Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, and Voices for Georgia’s Children — assess the status of school-based behavioral health efforts in Georgia, identify and discuss strategies to eliminate barriers to success, and encourage the adoption of state and national best practices. During the forum, panelists will focus on school-based behavioral health in the southwest and middle Georgia region. Educators, parents, policy leaders, behavioral health experts, and providers are encouraged to attend this public forum. The first in the series of six forums was held in Atlanta on April 15, 2019, and the second forum was held on Sept. 13 in Albany, Ga. More information on those events can be found here.

“Almost 20 percent of children and adolescents in Georgia have a diagnosed mental health disorder. So much can be done to prevent and minimize the effects of illness if we intervene early by providing the supports and care children and their families need” said Carter Center Mental Health Program Director Eve Byrd. “We saw from the attendance and discussions in our first two forums that there is tremendous interest from a variety of community members in preventing behavioral health disorders and promoting mental health and well-being in children through school-based programming.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the estimate of Georgia’s children and adolescents aged 2-17 who had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder in 2016 is the same as the national rate: 18.3 percent.

“The nation is at a tipping point to address children’s mental health and well-being,” said Michael Waller, interim executive director at Georgia Appleseed. “Although Georgia has made important progress, we need to work together to increase the capacity of our schools to support interventions for children through access to mental health providers in schools and provide early intervention and prevention supports and services to children and their families.”

Examples of the mental health and developmental issues experienced by youth in the U.S. include stress, anxiety, bullying, family problems, depression, learning disabilities, and alcohol and substance abuse. Left untreated, youth are more likely to experience academic failure, absenteeism, involvement with the criminal justice system, and in some cases, impulses to inflict self-harm or attempt suicide.

“There are lots of conversations now about school and community safety, and it is important to realize that helping children and youth achieve good mental health- and maintain it - is where safety actually starts,” says Dr. Erica Fener Sitkoff, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children. “We owe it to our children and ourselves to make sure we provide schools with the best information, workforce, tools and supports we can to make this happen.”

The two most common metrics to assess a state’s ability to serve mental health needs in children are the availability of mental health providers in schools and the use of an evidence-based school climate approach. Georgia uses Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in many of its school districts and it continues to expand the Georgia APEX Program, a program started in 2015 by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to increase student access to behavioral health providers in schools.

Editor’s Note

  • Media wishing to attend the Middle Georgia School-Based Behavioral Health Forum must RSVP by Feb. 5 at 5 p.m. to Rennie Sloan (404-420-5129,
  • Registration for this free public event closed on Jan. 31, 2020. Limited walk-ins will be accepted. The event takes place at Dublin High School, 1127 Hillcrest Parkway, Dublin, Ga., 31201
  • Portions of the forum will be livestreamed on Twitter via @cartercenter. During the forum, you can join the conversation using #GAschoolbasedmentalhealth on Twitter.

View Agenda

Middle Georgia School-Based Behavioral Health Forum: Supporting Children’s Mental and Emotional Well-being »