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Editorial: Expand School-Based Health
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Today, Editor Martin L. Cahn and contributing columnist Ronda Rich touch on the issues of suicide and death due to the mix of alcohol and drugs. Death, in whatever form, is always a sensitive subject, but especially so when young people are involved, whether because they are the ones whose lives are lost, or the impacts they deal with when a parent or other loved one dies.

Luckily, the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) does have several things in place to help, although it’s unclear if students always know how they can get that help. According to KCSD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Alisa Taylor and Communications Director Mary Anne Byrd, five years ago, the district began employing five mental health clinicians to work directly in schools. Each of them covers a specific area of the county and is in one of the schools in that area every school day. They are also available to go to one of their other schools in an emergency.

In addition, students can go to their guidance counselors to deal with emotional and social issues. If a student’s problem is especially difficult or intense, they’ll be referred to the clinician assigned to that school.

Also five years ago, the district converted the Continuous Learning Center from a behavioral-based (i.e., “bad students”) curriculum to a more therapeutic one for students whose academics are being affected by the mental, social and other issues affecting them.

And then there’s the district’s partnership with LiveWell Kershaw. Through that agency, there are interns from the University of South Carolina who are available when the need is greater that even the district’s own clinicians can serve. Some are based several days a week at North Central High School (NCHS), others at Lugoff-Elgin High School. The ones at NCHS are part of a School-Based Health Center. This means students at both NCHS and North Central Middle School have greater access to not only medical personnel for traditional healthcare services, but “life coaches” (mental health counselors) as well.

In February, LiveWell said it wants to expand the school-based program to Camden and Lugoff-Elgin, and had obtained funding to do so this year.

We urge the district and LiveWell to do this as quickly as possible, creating School-Based Health Centers at Camden and Lugoff. It’s obvious to us based on what has happened this week that they are urgently needed.

It can only help to have our kids know there is at least one person, if not several, they can go to for help with their problems at school, wherever they are and whenever they come up.