GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — North Carolina needs more youth mental health providers in 90 of its 100 counties.

As kids get ready to return to the classroom in less than a week, school district leaders across the Piedmont Triad are talking about ways to support students’ mental health. They’ve put in work over the summer to make sure your child gets the help they need.

In Guilford County, there are four new mental health service providers. Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley said the youth mental health crisis isn’t going anywhere, which makes these resources essential to student success.

“It’ll be something that’s kind of part of the fabric of the schools instead of something that we’re layering on in pieces through the year,” she said.

During the 2022/2023 school year, more than 1,500 Guilford County students received therapy. Nearly 300 staff members accessed sessions as well.

“Like other school districts across the United States, last year GCS saw an increase in student mental health needs and inappropriate school behavior as a result of the trauma many children and youth experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Oakley said.

The superintendent said access to mental health services makes all the difference. It’s why the district has hired four providers using federal grant funding, who will help expand virtual and in-person services offered to students.

“I think the referral process will be a little more streamlined this year,” Oakley said. “I think they’ll find it a bit more accessible. We’ll be able to connect kids with services in a faster way.”

Students in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools can also expect to see increased support. The district hired a mental health services program coordinator, who’s making sure each school has a mental health provider.

“These providers employ therapists who can provide therapy services to students in a one-on-one setting, and the services are more in-depth than our psychologists, counselors and social workers could provide,” said Dr. Heather Schwickrath, the district’s director of psychological services.

As important as it is to reach students, staff members need options, too. Guilford County Schools is offering virtual services to all employees at no cost.

“I am proud of the strides forward made in the area of mental health, wellness and safety,” Oakley said.

It’s important to note Guilford County students will need parental consent before receiving mental health services. School leaders will work together to make a plan to best benefit individual children.