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More mental health counselors coming to Horry County schools

(WPDE)

Mental health issues have been linked to a number violent incidents on school campuses in recent years, which is why Horry County school leaders are adding more mental health counselors for the 2018-2019 school year.

There are currently 69 licensed mental health counselors working in Horry County schools, but officials say this isn’t enough. So they’ve invested big bucks in expanding their mental health resources.

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"If a student is having a crisis, you're right there in the school so they can come to your office if they don't have an appointment and you just get them right in," said former Horry County Schools mental health counselor, Sandy Quast.

Quast said the need for counselors is huge.

"I had middle school age kids, so, I actually saw several that were in foster care who had moved through several houses within one year, you did see a lot of trauma, sexual abuse, families with domestic violence," said Quast.

With students' personal lives impacting their school life and the growing district, the school board will be hiring eight new mental health counselors for next school year.

"We are able to provide those services in most of our schools, but this will allow us to provide those services in all of our schools between either an RBHS [Rehabilitative Behavioral Health Services] counselor or a mental health counselor from Waccamaw Mental Health," explained Horry County Schools spokesperson Lisa Bourcier.

Leaders believe these services are not only an asset to students and families, but also to guidance counselors and teachers.

"Even with the guidance counselors and teachers they're going to feel a lot more empowered and more apt to make a recommendation when they know there's someone right there on campus," said Quast.

School board officials said professional counseling is something that could help keep students safe.

"Its definitely something that could limit violence in the schools, you know, waiting until things escalate to a point where they don't need to, if they could get early intervention, they could prevent a lot of those issues," said Quast.

The district will spend more than $580,000 to hire these eight new counselors, but haven't decided which schools the counselors will be placed in yet.

Horry County Schools have been using mental health counselors for the last 10 years.

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