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Trillium to launch school-based therapy services

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Trillium distributed a School and Community Violence brochure earlier this year to all of the more than 400 schools in the catchment area. The document explains how the agency can be a resource before and after traumatic events.


By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, May 26, 2018

With an eye toward school violence and drug abuse prevention in public schools, the organization that manages government-funded mental health care in eastern North Carolina is launching a program to provide to school-based therapy services in 14 regional counties most in need. 

Trillium Health Resources, which manages funding for mental illness, substance abuse and intellectual/developmental disabilities services in 25 eastern North Carolina counties, is seeking clinicians who can offer services in counties that have limited access to counselling including Brunswick, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Gates, Hertford, Jones, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Pender and Washington.

“Our goal is to take action and try to help where we can to mitigate some of the issues related to school violence,” Cindy Ehlers, Trillium’s vice president for clinical operations, said. “We’re doing so by partnering and collaborating with school systems to get therapists in them to help young people with mental health or substance use issues or those who might be going down that path toward violence or suicide where they might not otherwise have help.”

Trillium also distributed the School and Community Violence brochure earlier this year to all of the more than 400 schools in the catchment area. The document explains how the agency can be a resource before and after such traumatic events. The agency also distributes information to help reduce stigmas about mental illnesses, educates anyone who interacts with children and coordinates with providers when help is needed.

Interested agencies have until June 29 to respond to a request for proposals issued by Trillium. The request seeks agencies that can offer counseling to students in at least one of the 14 counties. Other school districts in Trillium’s service area, including Pitt County Schools, have existing relationships with providers to offer services. Trillium interacts with all school districts through its System of Care coordinators who help organize community collaborative meetings and serve as contacts with offices such as the Department of Juvenile Justice, Ehlers said.

“Trillium recognizes the value of placing clinicians in schools — their proximity to the children allows for more immediate treatment and contact with teachers and families,” said Leza Wainwright, Trillium’s chief executive. “This RFP will fill an important gap in 14 of our counties.” 

School-based mental health services range from assistance provided by a school counselor to a comprehensive, integrated program of prevention, identification and treatment on campus. Trillium’s focus with the RFP is to build a strong infrastructure to develop a more comprehensive approach within school settings, officials said.

Trillium had installed school-based therapy in rural parts of its eastern North Carolina service area years earlier, when it was known as East Carolina Behavioral Health. Since it merged with another management service in 2015, it has been analyzing behavioral health conditions in the region, Ehlers said. Its findings correlate with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ data that one in five children will experience a mental health issue during their school career.

“We need to make sure every school system has the necessary resources to meet its community’s needs,” she said. “This is about identifying issues when they happen and catching and addressing them early so they don’t become lifelong situations for those people.”

Some who receive the services will be funded primarily through Medicaid. Others, including those who are uninsured, underinsured or indigent, will receive state funding support. Families with private insurance should be able to use them to pay for the services, Ehlers said.

“We would expect clinicians awarded contracts will be paneled with those insurers, so kids can receive needed treatment services through their insurance companies,” she said. “Notwithstanding, there will be co-pays, and parents will have to consent to their children receiving the services, as is true with all Medicaid and other insured services.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com and 329-9572.