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Eastern AHEC receives $326,713 from Duke Endowment for school mental health project

GREENVILLE  (Jan. 11, 2006)  —  The Eastern Area Health Education Center will expand its school mental health project with a grant of $181,853 recently awarded by The Duke Endowment. Another grant of $144,860 is expected from the endowment later this year.

Previously, The Duke Endowment awarded $588,000 to Eastern AHEC to provide in-depth training on child and adolescent mental health topics to school nurses, counselors, social workers, psychologists, resource officers, administrators and others. That project received a national award in 2004 from the National AHEC Organization.

The new grant will allow Eastern AHEC to broaden its activities beyond the training focus of the previous grant. Almost 800 school and mental health professionals received training between 2003 and 2005. Participants shared their concern about the increasing numbers of children with mental health issues and limited expertise, time and resources to address the needs. They said continued training would be extremely helpful, according to project director Keith Letchworth.

In response, Eastern AHEC will use the grant to establish a Center of Excellence in School Mental Health in collaboration with schools and departments at East Carolina University, state agencies and consumer, advocacy and professional organizations. The center will coordinate continuing education in school mental health, disseminate information, promote collaboration among agencies and foster system changes to address mental health issues in school reform.

AHEC also will develop curriculum guides, online and classroom training courses for eight additional topics related to school mental health and will evaluate previous training methods. It will work with the ECU College of Education to conduct a summer institute, and a number of schools and departments at ECU will work with Eastern AHEC to develop and offer an online graduate certificate in school mental health, Letchworth said.

It is estimated that as many as one in five children or adolescents may have a mental health problem that can be identified and treated. At least one in 10, or as many as six million young people, may have a "serious emotional disturbance" that severely disrupts their ability to function socially, academically and emotionally, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

North Carolina is one of eight pilot states participating in the Eliminating Barriers Initiative, a collaborative effort funded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to combat the stigma of mental illness. Eastern AHEC, through the school mental health project, has been an active partner in this initiative.

Eastern AHEC is one of nine in the North Carolina AHEC program, which links North Carolina's four university health sciences centers, community hospitals and health agencies. Eastern AHEC serves 23 counties in northeastern North Carolina and is affiliated with the ECU schools of medicine, nursing and allied health sciences, and with the schools of dentistry, pharmacy and public health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Duke Endowment is a private foundation established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke. Its mission is to serve the people of North and South Carolina by supporting selected programs of higher education, health care, children's welfare and spiritual life.

 


Contact: Crystal Baity | 252-744-2481