The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) was recently awarded roughly $17 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education to help meet the mental health needs of students in the state’s public schools including Wayne County. The funding will enable NCDPI to leverage partnerships with institutions of higher education and 15 school districts to increase the number and diversity of mental health service providers in high-needs schools. Starting this month and continuing through 2027, these grants will help the state bolster the pipeline of school-based mental health service providers, including school counselors, school social workers and school mental health clinicians.
The first grant, named “Project Adding Direct Support (ADS),” NCDPI’s Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant will serve over 120,000 students in eight school districts: Pitt, Pender, Wayne, Harnett, Scotland, Alamance-Burlington, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and Catawba. Project ADS will increase the number of licensed school-based mental health providers by a minimum of 60 within five years. To accomplish this, Project ADS will incentivize local generalist counselors and social workers to “re-specialize”, meaning that they complete additional work to become licensed to practice in schools as a designated school counselor and/or school social worker.
Project ADS will partner with three institutions of higher education (IHEs) with approved school counseling and school social work licensure programs: The University of North Carolina-Charlotte (UNCC), The University of North Carolina-Pembroke (UNCP), and N.C. State University (NCSU). In partnership with the three IHEs, Project ADS will recruit, train and re-specialize school-based mental health providers, provide travel stipends for internships in identified LEAs, and provide stipends for internship supervisors. The total funding for this grant is approximately $5.54 million across five years.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said funding from these two grants is critical to addressing the growing student mental health needs and in filling vacant school-based mental health positions. “This funding is so important in terms of building capacity for mental health service professionals in schools,” Truitt said. “As an awardee of both grants, the agency is able to increase mental health support for students in designated North Carolina schools, while strengthening the future pipeline of school-based mental health providers through recruitment, retention and incentives.”