NC bill aimed at providing more mental health resources in schools

RALEIGH, N.C. — As mental health problems among children increase, a new North Carolina bill is tackling the issue head-on.

House Bill 75 allows funding for each school district to create a mental health crisis response plan made up of the State Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement and school administrators to identify students who may pose a threat to themselves or others.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Mental Health Resources]

"I think it's better that you catch it at an early age," said parent Kellena Bradford.

The bill also requires a facility assessment once a year to make sure public schools are safe and secure in the event of a major threat such as an active shooter.

"It's an effort to keep our boys and girls safe," said Republican Rep. John Torbett.

Torbett introduced the bill with a great deal of support.

"We're trying to get to a point where we don't have to worry about it anymore," said Torbett.

Gov. Roy Cooper just signed HB75 into law, which provides $91 million immediately. It's not impacted by the budget stalemate because lawmakers drafted it as a separate bill.

The money will cover resources in schools, such as psychologists and psychiatrists.

"You never know what kids are going through nowadays. Their minds are just everywhere now," said parent Elijah Hampton.

With suicide, depression and anxiety rates skyrocketing, youth mental health advocates say the resources are much needed.

"It is so intense for kids that they're reaching for things at levels they've never reached for," said youth therapist Tim Ringgold.

Torbett said he believes lawmakers are doing everything they possibly can to prevent a tragedy from happening.

The House School Safety Committee, of which Torbett is a member, is now tasked with creating security recommendations and changes for public universities, including the UNC system.

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A previous version of this story noted that HB75 included mandatory health screenings for students.

That portion was included in the original bill but was taken out of the signed version.

Torbett and other lawmakers are working on another school mental health screening bill for the next session.