Carter Center Holds Forum to Address Unmet Mental Health Needs for Georgia’s Children

Contact: Rennie Sloan, 404-420-5129,

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

ATLANTA…The first of six regional School-Based Behavioral Health Forums across Georgia will convene at The Carter Center on April 15 (more details below). These forums – co-hosted by The Carter Center, Georgia Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, and Voices for Georgia’s Children – will assess the status of school-based behavioral health efforts in those regions of Georgia, identify and eliminate barriers to success, and encourage the adoption of national best practices. During the April 15 event, panelists will focus on school-based behavioral health in the Atlanta metropolitan region and the anticipated release of new state funding to increase the number of mental health professionals in Georgia’s schools. Educators, parents, policy leaders, behavioral health experts and providers are encouraged to attend this public forum.

“Almost 20 percent of children and adolescents in Georgia have a diagnosed mental health disorder,” said Carter Center Mental Health Program Director Eve Byrd. “This forum is the first of its kind to gather all the stakeholders in one room to develop a better understanding of barriers and a solution to better serve unaddressed mental health needs for children in schools.”

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 Talley Wells, 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 a multi-tiered approach for interventions.”

Examples of the mental health and development 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, become involved with the criminal justice system, or in severe cases, an increased risk of suicide.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children in Georgia, ages 15-19, and third for children ages 10-14,” said Dr. Erica Fener-Sitkoff, executive director at Voices for Georgia’s Children. “Strengthening the behavioral health workforce, especially inside schools, is critical to improving care and outcomes for our kids.”

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. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently pledged an additional $8.4 million to the Apex program, a program started in 2015 by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities that pays for mental health providers to be available in schools. This increase in funding is expected to increase coverage of mental health providers in schools to almost 20 percent of Georgia’s schools by 2020.

Editor’s Note:

· Media wishing to attend the Atlanta School-Based Behavioral Health Forum must RSVP by April 12 at 12 p.m. to Rennie Sloan (404-420-5129,

· The public is encouraged to register to attend the event, which will take place in the Ivan Allen Pavilion of The Carter Center at 453 Freedom Parkway. Registration must be completed by April 12 at 12 p.m. Register here: Limited walk-ins will be accepted.

· Learn more about the Carter Center's Georgia mental health crisis efforts:

· Portions of the forum will be livestreamed on Twitter on @cartercenter. During the forum, you can join the conversation using #GAschoolbasedmentalhealth.

· View complete agenda here »