Ben Hill County School System’s Pediatric Mental Health Initiative has been selected as a Sow a Seed 2021 grant recipient based on their collaborative approach to addressing the mental health needs of their students through telehealth and to support the continuation of this program into the summer months, and beyond.
The Pediatric Mental Health Initiative’s pilot program began providing services in October 2021 at Ben Hill County Elementary School. This initiative has now been expanded to all five schools in the county with approximately 20 students being served. This partnership is a collaboration that continues to grow; including the Ben Hill County Board of Education, College of Professional Advancement, Mercer University (CoPA), Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) Program at Mercer University School of Medicine, and Global Partnership for Telehealth. The cornerstone of the initiative is the delivery of virtual counseling services to students. The initiative also provides mental health screening tools, suicide prevention training to educators, community members, and students and sponsors community special events and health fairs.
The mental health counseling services are provided free of charge by supervised graduate students from CoPA and the MFT Program. Currently, these programs are working on arrangements to have the supervised graduate students continue these services to the Ben Hill County Schools’ students during the summer to provide continuity of care.
In an effort to serve more Georgians, research and development are underway to establish a Voluntary Health Clinic to provide free health services based on the success of the initiative in Ben Hill County. Dean Karen Sneddon, Mercer University School of Law is assisting in the creation of the corporate entity of the Free Voluntary Health Clinic while Joan Anderson, Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center, with Dr. Julie Petherbridge, Dean of the College of Business, Mercer University, and Bethanyanne Star Newton, Student Assistant, are developing a Handbook for the Pediatric Mental Health Initiative. It will provide for the uniform implementation and operations of this program in counties across rural Georgia.
You can hear program director Wanda Kimbrell, Ben Hill School System, and Priscilla Danheiser, Ph.D., Dean, College of Professional Advancement, discuss the pediatric mental health pilot program on “What’s Special in Georgia Podcast” hosted by the Georgia Department of Education at the link below.
Pictured Above: Brad Wells, Global Partnership for Telehealth, and Wanda Kimbrell, Ben Hill County School System setting up telehealth services for the program.