Sunday, June 4, 2023

Brunswick behavioral treatment center for school-age kids delayed again

A plan to start a behavioral treatment center in Brunswick County has been delayed again, as district officials continue to work out transportation costs. File photo.

Brunswick County school district officials have hit another snag in their efforts to get a behavioral treatment center for elementary students up and running this year.

While assistant superintendent Dr. Deanne Meadows had hoped to have an agreement with a mental health provider ready to present to the board of education during its monthly meeting earlier this week, she told members that there had been another in a series of delays–this time in figuring out who will pay for transportation.

Meadows said she is working closely with the outside mental health provider to have the cost of bussing paid for through Medicaid for the children who qualify.

The district has determined that the cost to transport children who enroll in the day treatment program will be approximately $200,000 annually.

“We’re having to work through some bureaucracy, for lack of a better word, to try to make that happen,” Meadows noted.

At this point, she added, the treatment center would not be ready in time to open its doors come the first day of school.

“There would not be time for us at this point to start on the very first day of the school year,” Meadows said. “When we first brought the idea up back in February, we were hoping to be able to start at the beginning of the school year, at least with a few students.”

Meadows pitched the concept, which pairs psychologists with educators in the classroom, earlier this year as a way to deal with increasing incidents of violence and disruptive behaviors among young students with mental health diagnoses.

The original plan to make minor renovations to a portion of Bolivia Elementary would cost approximately $24,000–the most cost-effective site–but it would mean identified students would be in close quarters with traditional students. The separate building at Bolivia tentatively approved by the board will cost nearly $48,500 in additional classroom and bathroom construction.

Since the treatment center was first proposed earlier this year, board members have repeatedly postponed a decision, questioning whether it is appropriate to house children diagnosed with mental health disorders on the same campus as other students. And some, like John Thompson, have expressed concern about opening a center that has no potential for expansion.

In July, the board voted 4-1, with Charlie Miller dissenting, to allow for a separate building on Bolivia Elementary’s campus to be assessed by a mental health provider as an appropriate location for the treatment center. But members have also directed staff to continue a search for another location during the assessment process.

The day treatment program would build to 24 students districtwide–six in each classroom.

“It will be a gradual enrollment of students. Even when we get the doors open it would be a couple of students, then adding a couple of students, to actually work through that process,” Meadows said.

A district team will be appointed to identify students who could benefit from the program, Meadows said. Students would then have to be approved by the mental health provider.

“My hope is to bring an [agreement] soon and I know I keep saying that but I really do want to bring it to you when I have a good idea of the cost of the program,” Meadows said.

“Is there a month that we get to where we say it’s just not going to work and then wait until next year?” board member Bud Thorsen asked.

If an agreement cannot be reached by November, the district would then begin planning to open the center by August 2016, Meadows responded.

In addition to the cost of renovations, the district will need to spend approximately $250,000 for educators and a center director. The board’s decision thus far does not mean the district is locked into the Bolivia campus if another viable location presents itself, and it is not an official vote to approve the day treatment program.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or

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