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Chapel Hill Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Psychotherapists Should Take Note of a New Local Mental Health Services Program Called Caring Across Communities

The University of North Carolina has taken stewardship of one of only fifteen sites, nationally, for the Caring Across Communities Program.  Caring Across Communities is a program whose aim is to bring direct access to mental health and psychotherapy services for underserved children in our school systems.

The idea is that school children spend a lot of their time in, you guessed it!,  school. Therefore, if one wanted to identify mental illness in children and start education and treatment for them, school would be the ideal place in which to do that.  Under the Caring Across Communities umbrella, UNC and Chatham County schools started a program called Confianza to target the Latino population in Chatham County.

The statistics backing the idea that there is a need for this type of program are startling.  According to studies, of the more than 50% of Latino school children in Chatham County that have mental health needs, only 3% to 5% actually access care! 30% of the Latino children meet the criteria for depression, PTSD, or anxiety disorders!   11% of girls have been suicidal! These numbers are simply unacceptable.

At least Confianza is trying to have an impact with a three-part strategy.  (1) School staff will receive more training to increase their knowledge of Latino childrens’ life experiences, (2) parents will be offered training on mental health issues, and (3) a bilingual Licensed Clinical Social Worker will be hired to conduct and facilitate all of these activities.

May I offer a suggestion about a fourth option?   Psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists in Chapel Hill, Pittsboro, Cary, Durham and Raleigh should be willing to offer their mental health services at a reasonable price to school districts so that children that need it can receive the best professional mental health treatment that this area has to offer.

Of course, it’s not just Latino students that need mental health help.  The American Journal of Psychiatry cite studies suggesting that at least 15 million children in America have a diagnosable mental health disorder and yet less than 25% of those children receive mental health care. It’s a national disgrace so thank you to Caring Across Communities for its efforts to make things better.

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