North Carolina Department of Public Instruction [NCDPI] leadership have recognized Rockingham County Schools [RCS] for its model K-12 mental health services program. NCDPI officials asked Stephanie Ellis, Executive Director of Behavioral Health, Crisis Intervention, and Student Safety and Mental Health Service Professional Project Director at RCS to make a site visit, in recognition of her team’s work in building a full continuum of support for students’ mental health and emotional wellbeing. The visiting team of officials intends to help advocate for more North Carolina school districts to implement services like those RCS has created. The visiting team was impressed with the support the district provides students through a full-scale social emotional learning program, specialized instructional support personnel, and the RCS Behavioral & Emotional Therapeutic Assistance (BETA) team.
State officials requested the site visit to RCS, which was selected as one of three school districts in North Carolina chosen three years ago by the NCDPI Exceptional Children Division to participate in the SAMHSA-funded Project AWARE/ACTIVATE grant. Special visitors Julie Pittman, Educator Engagement Specialist Advisor to the North Carolina State Superintendent Catherine Truitt and Dr. Heidi Austin, Director of NCDPI Project AWARE, attended to see firsthand the model behavioral health program that Dr. Ellis, the school teams, and specialized instructional support have developed.
The team began its visit by touring the RCS Day Treatment Program and a Lunch and Learn to hear how social and emotional supports and mental health are being implemented across RCS. The administrators and each of the school mental health teams presented on how they use the RCS mental health teaming structure to support students’ social emotional and mental health. The site visit included time for question and answer sessions so that the visitors might share Rockingham County’s model implementation with other leaders, legislators, districts, and teams. Dr. Ellis stated, “RCS has amazing staff! Our school staff love our students very much and work so diligently to support our students every day. I cannot thank our schools, administrators, and specialized instructional support personnel enough for all they do. We are so thankful our families trust us to provide their children these needed supports as well.”
The site visit also celebrated RCS partners in the community including: Rockingham County Division of Health and Human Services, Sandhills Center Local Management Entity, Youth Haven Services, Rockingham County Youth Services, Partnership for Children, Reidsville Area Foundation, Help, Inc, Family Justice Center, UNCG Department of Counseling Education Program, and UNC Rockingham Student Health Centers – a broad team of partners that support the well-being of the LEA’s students and whole community.
Dr. Stephanie Ellis also stated, “We are very humbled and excited to be highlighted and viewed as a model district for behavioral health and emotional well-being services! I am so thankful for the opportunities our students receive every day in our school district for their emotional wellbeing and mental health. Our goal is to inspire hope and make a difference for each and every student in RCS!”
To hear directly from Dr. Ellis, listen to her episode of In Session in which she discusses the Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP) initiative to implement a full continuum of social-emotional and mental health support : Implementing a Full Continuum of Social-Emotional Support with Dr. Stephanie Ellis | National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE)