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Liberty County is home to Fort Stewart and boasts the largest veteran population in the state of Georgia. But unfortunately, it has another distinction. The county – which has a little over 61,610 residents and 19,383 households – reported the highest suicide rates in southeast Georgia from 2019 to 2021, and the county school system is feeling the effects of this crisis on its students.
To address this crisis, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) worked to secure $3.8 million through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fund trauma-informed support services and mental health care for Liberty County School System students. This is crucial to the community which has been designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area. Carter stressed that mental health resources are vital in all communities, especially among the military community, where an estimated 14.6 percent of adults face frequent mental distress.
“It’s disheartening to see how high suicide, depression, and anxiety rates are among our youth,” said Carter. “Right now, our schools do not have the resources to address this crisis, and our children are hurting because of it. That’s why I’m so proud of the Liberty County School System for their leadership in applying for this grant, which will improve lives for all students, especially those in military families. It’s well-deserved and I am eager to see how their new mental health programs promote mental well-being here in the first district.”
According to Carter, this grant will allow LCSS to support its 10,000 students, 16 percent of whom are part of the military community, by creating school-based support and mental health services to include implementing targeted screening to identify students in need, establishing a referral pathway to ensure students receive the necessary supports and services, providing comprehensive training and support for school staff, and implementing a family and community engagement plan to increase awareness of the impact of trauma on children and youth.
“We are so thankful for this opportunity for our district,” said Dr. Franklin Perry, Liberty County Superintendent of Schools. “So many of our students need support and we are fortunate to receive this funding so we can provide the services needed for our students who are experiencing trauma.”