Written by James Coleman and Suchi Tailor
School Support Staff Play Critical Role Improving Student Well-Being and School Safety
With school shootings and other forms of school-based violence being ever-present in the news and a major matter of concern across the nation, the safety and well-being of students in schools has become a top issue for policymakers. In North Carolina, legislation to address school safety has focused on both increasing school support personnel and school safety resources. Our latest issue brief examines the role of support services in schools, particularly mental health services, in improving student health and safety. Half of all mental health illnesses begin by the age of 14, and if left untreated, mental health issues from early in life often persist into adulthood. The number of youth in North Carolina who do not receive needed mental health treatment is particularly concerning in light of rising rates of youth suicide in North Carolina. Increased funding and support for mental health services in schools can increase access for youth and improve school safety.
The issue brief details mental health services provided by Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP) such as nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers and gaps in school mental health services caused by workforce shortages of SISP. In addition, other mental health services available to North Carolina students, including school district partnerships with mental health providers, school-based health centers, and trauma-informed schools, are outlined.
This issue brief was prepared for the NCIOM Legislative Health Policy Fellows Program, with funding support from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, the Cone Health Foundation, the Duke Endowment, and the Commonwealth Fund.