Sherita Cobb, the director of student support for OCS, said that, as of Thursday, 467 OCS students are receiving mental health services through OCS.

Thanks to a new way of collecting data implemented by Orange County Schools (OCS) for 2018-19 school year, numbers on mental health services and enrollment in OCS have been released as of this month — which also happens to be Mental Health Month.

Sherita Cobb, the director of student support for OCS, said that, as of Thursday, 467 OCS students are receiving mental health services through OCS.

“This year we’ve seen an increase in younger children in need of support at younger ages and stages and we’re not sure about the cause of that,” she said. 

This is the second year of an OCS partnership with Renaissance Wellness Services, LLC. With the partnership, OCS administration can refer a student to a therapist at the Holly Springs-based facility. If the student’s parent or guardian decides to go with the referral, Renaissance will iron out the details of the student’s treatment plan, including frequency and duration of appointments.

The therapists also travel to OCS schools for student sessions. Each school has two therapists, one who is at the school full time and another who floats between a few different locations.

“We found that the number of children needing mental health services was increasing greatly and children were losing school time going to their appointments, so now the professionals are on campus,” Cobb said.

This school year, there were 239 instances when EMS, DSS or a mobile crisis unit was called or a suicide assessment was completed district wide. Suicide assessment incidences — or instances when a student made statements, wrote statements or otherwise threatened self-harm that counselors, nurses and/or social workers — composed a large chunk of the overall instance at a total of 165 assessments, with 16 being high risk.

From the 239 total instances, 198 students were referred to school-based mental health services, with 47 students actually taking advantage of the services.

In the 2017-18 school year, there were 166 suicide assessments, with 15 in the category of high risk.

“The number of students who were recommended services was much higher this year,” Cobb said.

No data was available on the number of students taking advantage of services in the 2017-18 school year. Cobb said that, this year, the referral and data collection processes were revamped to “allow close monitoring of the needs of the students.”

This year, a wider team of professionals was made accessible to OCS students, with the addition of trauma therapists and options for students without insurance. Students without health insurance can receive mental health services from a Renaissance intern free of charge, with their appointments monitored by one of the licensed therapists.

Together with the 47 students who are receiving services after being referred through an incident over the school year, 420 students are also enrolled in services after Renaissance screened their information from OCS. 

The breakdown of these students shows pre-teens and young teens as the largest group recovering services, with 50 students falling between 11-12 years old and 49 students ages 13-14. 

Broken down by gender, of students enrolled in services 54 percent identify as male, 44 percent identify as female and 1.7 percent identify as gender-neutral. Caucasian students made up the largest group receiving services at 42.9 percent, followed by African American students at 28.8 percent, Latino students at 20 percent and American Indian students at 1.7 percent.

Moving forward, Cobb said that OCS is looking to continue offering services for student both with and without health insurance and also continue to strengthen the Renaissance partnership.

“We have increased the number of Renaissance therapists in a year and we now meet every few months to discuss the partnership,” she said. “We just want to make sure we continue to be able to provide school-based mental health and can support the academic, social and mental wellness of OCS students.”