Horry County Schools unveils trial run of new mental-health service

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) — With an increase of students requesting counseling and mental-health aid in Horry County and the district not having enough counselors, officials decided to adopt a new outside program.

The district is trying the ‘Care Solace program’ on a trial basis for the rest of the school year.

Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey unveiled the program at Monday night’s school board meeting. He said after talking with other superintendents in the state who have used the program and had success with it, he decided to bring it to Horry County Schools.

“Given all the circumstances around the pandemic, we have seen an uptick in our schools and our students requesting and needing counseling services through RBHS (Rehabilitative Behavioral Health Services) and guidance counselors,” Maxey said.

He added that ‘sometimes the number of students having needs or requesting service for their students, exceeds our resources.”

Velna Allen, the district’s chief officer for student services, said school officials have seen an increase in students with depression, anxiety and self-harming tendencies in the last few years. She said guidance counselors usually have a caseload of 40 to 45 students. The state recommends 20 to 25 students.

“If you have 45 students, you can’t even give an hour a day to that student and some of the counseling sessions do take longer than an hour,” Allen said. “It has become a little overwhelming with the amount of students they serve.”

Allen said the district realized it needed more help and that Care Solace will be a benefit. She said Care Solace is more than counselling; it’s a care coordination service. She said they have more than 300 licensed practitioners who are matched with those seeking help.

“All they do is they match our student, or our parent, or our teacher or employee with the right person to provide that service,” Allen said.

The district pays a flat fee to Care Solace, but it’s completely free to students, staff members and parents, and it’s available 24/7. Families are even able to request group counseling through the service.

School guidance counselors are going through training now on how to implement it.

Horry County Schools is only signed up for the program until the end of June. After that, Allen said district leaders will assess the result and determine whether it’s something they want to continue in the fall.

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