School system gets grant for school-based health center

South Macon Elementary School photo by Vickie Carpenter

Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

The Macon County School System will be getting some additional help in regards to mental health treatment next school year with the collaborative effort between the school system, Macon County Public Health (MCPH), Appalachian Community Services (ACS) and Western Carolina University (WCU).  

Beginning July 1, 2019, students in Macon County will have increased access to preventive health, nutrition and mental health services through a school-based health center. According to MCPH Public Information Officer Kathy McGaha, the health center will be located at South Macon Elementary school.   

“Preventive Health Services will be provided as well by the school nurse with the addition of an interdisciplinary team approach with the other providers based on-site at the School Based Health Center (SBHC),” said McGaha. “The funds from this grant would be used primarily for the provision of two full time mental health professionals paid for by the grant and hired and supervised by ACS. Another identified deficit is having coverage for medication evaluation and prescribing, specifically contracting with a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner to provide four hours per week to manage prescription medications. Eighty percent of the grant funds will be used to provide Behavioral Health Services.”

The grant totals $150,000 and for it to be utilized beyond the first year of implementation, the health department will have to reapply for funding annually through the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Rural Health. 

The grant was made possible on the state level as providers found that safety net organizations continue to face increasing demands for access to services in communities across North Carolina. The current opioid crisis, behavioral health needs, integrated patient care, creating healthy opportunities for access to food, housing, transpiration, and the use of Telehealth strategies to improve access and sustainability are among the many issues facing safety net providers. 

To address the needs, the North Carolina General Assembly supported grant funds to help community collaborations meet the health needs of the state’s most vulnerable populations.

Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin noted that the grant is a great first step in addressing the needs of the school system and hopes that what the clinic will actually look like will be shaped by the needs within the district.