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Southwest Georgia Forum to Address Unmet Mental Health Needs for Georgia’s Children to be Held Sept. 13 in Albany

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Contact: Rennie Sloan, 404-420-5129,

The Carter Center, Georgia Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, and Voices for Georgia’s Children Hold School-Based Mental Health Forum in Southwest Georgia to Advance Mental Health and Well-Being in Children

ATLANTA…The second of six regional School-Based Behavioral Health Forums across Georgia will convene at Albany State University on Sept. 13 (more details below). These forums – co-hosted by The Carter Center, Georgia Appleseed Center for Law & Justice, and Voices for Georgia’s Children – assess the status of school-based behavioral health efforts in Georgia, identify and eliminate barriers to success, and encourage the adoption of national best practices. During the forum, panelists will focus on school-based behavioral health in the southwest Georgia region. Educators, parents, policy leaders, behavioral health experts and providers are encouraged to attend this public forum. The first in the series of six forums was held in Atlanta on April 15. 

“Almost 20 percent of children and adolescents in Georgia have a diagnosed mental health disorder. So much can be done to prevent and minimize the effects of illness if we intervene early by providing the supports and care children and their families need” said Carter Center Mental Health Program Director Eve Byrd. “We saw from the attendance and discussions at our first forum that there is tremendous interest from a variety of community members in preventing behavioral health disorders and promoting mental health and well-being in children through school-based programming.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the estimate of Georgia’s children and adolescents aged 2-17 who had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder in 2016 is the same as the national rate: 18.3 percent.

“The nation is at a tipping point to address children’s mental health and well-being,” said Talley Wells, executive director at Georgia Appleseed. “Although Georgia has made important progress, we need to work together to increase the capacity of our schools to support interventions for children through access to mental health providers in schools and provide early intervention and prevention supports and services to children and their families.”

Examples of the mental health and development issues experienced by youth in the U.S. include stress, anxiety, bullying, family problems, depression, learning disabilities, and alcohol and substance abuse. Left untreated, youth are more likely to experience academic failure, absenteeism, involvement with the criminal justice system, and in some cases, impulses to inflict self-harm or attempt suicide.

“There are lots of conversations now about school and community safety, and it is important to realize that helping children and youth achieve good mental health- and maintain it - is where safety actually starts,” says Dr. Erica Fener Sitkoff, executive director of Voices for Georgia’s Children. “We owe it to our children and ourselves to make sure we provide schools with the best information, workforce, tools and supports we can to make this happen.”

The two most common metrics to assess a state’s ability to serve mental health needs in children are the availability of mental health providers in schools and the use of an evidence-based school climate approach. Georgia uses Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in many of its school districts. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently pledged an additional $8.4 million to the Apex program, a program started in 2015 by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities that pays for mental health providers to be available in schools. This increase in funding is expected to increase coverage of mental health providers in schools to almost 20 percent of Georgia’s schools by 2020.

Editor’s Note:

  • Media wishing to attend the Georgia Southwestern School-Based Behavioral Health Forum must RSVP by Sept. 12 at 12 p.m. to Rennie Sloan (404-420-5129,
  • The public is encouraged to register to attend the event, which will take place at Albany State University in the Billy Black Building. The address is 504 College Drive, Albany, Ga, 31705. Registration must be completed by Sept. 10 at 12 p.m. Limited walk-ins will be accepted.
  • Learn more about the Carter Center's Georgia mental health crisis efforts.
  • Portions of the forum will be livestreamed on Twitter via @cartercenter. During the forum, you can join the conversation using #GAschoolbasedmentalhealth on Twitter.

View the agenda (PDF) »

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