Georgia School-Based Mental Health Virtual Town Hall July 21

The Carter Center, Georgia Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, and Voices for Georgia’s Children Convene Town Hall to Address Mental Health for Georgia’s Children and How the Pandemic is Affecting Children’s Mental Health

ATLANTA (July 17, 2020) – To increase access to school-based behavioral health services in Georgia, a virtual town hall will be held on July 21. The discussion –  supported by The Carter Center and co-hosted by Georgia Appleseed Center for Law & Justice and Voices for Georgia’s Children – will address ways to continue delivery of Georgia’s school-based mental health services in non-traditional settings during the pandemic.

Building on Voices’ recent report, Supporting Children's Mental Health in Georgia's Schools, this Virtual Town Hall brings together three established providers from different regions of Georgia to offer first-hand accounts of how they have grown their programs and adapted to current challenges.

“A top priority for our schools and communities must be the health and safety of our kids, and it is important to realize that good mental health in children and youth is a crucial part of that,” 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.”

This event is part of a larger initiative that these three organizations are leading to expand school-based mental health services. Last year, they hosted a series of regional forums to facilitate solutions to improve school-based behavioral health in Georgia. The series kicked off in Atlanta in April 2019, with additional forums held in Albany and Dublin, Ga., respectively.  More information on those events can be found here.

“Almost 20 percent of children and adolescents in Georgia have a diagnosed mental health disorder. Dealing with the pandemic and changes in traditional school settings is likely exacerbating existing mental health disorders and creating additional mental distress in all children and families,” said Carter Center Mental Health Program Director Eve Byrd. “It’s more vital than ever to continue engaging stakeholders across Georgia to ensure children’s mental health and well-being needs are met 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%.

“Children’s mental health and well-being needs to be a priority in Georgia,” said Michael Waller, executive director at Georgia Appleseed. “We want to protect the gains made while expanding children's access to mental health providers and early intervention supports.”

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.

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. Download the flyer »

Editor’s Note:

  • During the forum, you can join the conversation using #GAschoolbasedmentalhealth on Twitter.
  • This free virtual event will take place on Tuesday July 21, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. EDT.
  • To register for this Town Hall please sign up here:
  • This event is the first in Voices’ GA-CALL Virtual Town Hall Series, which will explore a wide variety of topics on child well-being.

Contact: Rennie Sloan