Lawmakers file bills to add school nurses, require mental health plans

Rep. Cynthia Ball, D-Wake

Every school would have a permanent, full-time nurse on duty under House Bill 1203 and a companion bill, Senate Bill 850.

The bill follows two filed Tuesday that would increase the number of school social workers, counselors and psychologists.

School mental health officials expect a greater number of students, teachers and other staff members will return to campuses needing their services.

Schools closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 crisis. They could reopen in mid-August.

“School nurses contribute to the health, well-being, and educational success of our public school children, and in many NC communities they are the only health care professional a child sees,” Ball said in a statement. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, we must be especially vigilant about monitoring the spread of the disease, particularly in a high-contact environment such as a school.”

N.C. School Boards Association President Brenda Stephens added that providing schools with nurses is an essential first step to reopening schools. “This is a critical investment knowing how quickly COVID-19 can spread and given the growing need for healthcare professionals in our schools even before this pandemic,” Stephens said.

Jennifer Sharpe, president of the School Nurse Association of North Carolina, said schools need more nurses to ensure students have access to an “appropriate education.”

Bill co-sponsors include Reps. Donna White (R-Johnston), Gale Adcock (D-Wake) and Josh Dobson (R- Avery, McDowell, Mitchell.) Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) filed the companion bill, SB 850.

Ball also sponsored House Bill 1206, which would increase the number of school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists serving public schools. Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) filed a companion bill, Senate Bill 844.

Mental health plans

In a related matter Wednesday, the Senate Standing Committee on Education/Higher Education revived Senate Bill 476 that would require the State Board of Education to adopt a school-based mental health policy.

The policy would require school districts to adopt and to implement a mental health plan. The plan would include a mental health training program and suicide risk referral protocol.

There is no funding attached to the bill, so Sen. Chuck Edwards, (R-Buncombe), asked if school districts would have to pay for training programs.

Bill co-sponsor Deanna Ballard, (R-Wataugua), said the SBE and districts would have flexibility in deciding how to provide training.

But Sen. Jerry Tillman, (R-Guilford), school districts will be hit with an unfunded mandate if the bill is approved.

“That cost will not be minimum,” Tillman said. “When you undertake training of this nature and this magnitude, there will be quite a bit of cost, which is an unfunded mandate on the school boards unless we can find some COVID-19 money to help with this.”



  1. Mojb

    May 27, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    With the incline of social and emotional needs of our students and staff, I am ecstatic that monetary funds will be allocated for healthy healthcare in our schools. As an educator for 32 years I have been in awe at the caseload social workers, nurses and counselors have on a daily basis. I welcome this and hopefully teachers will be able to teach with less classroom distractions and disturbances.

  2. Lucy Russell

    May 27, 2020 at 9:11 pm

    Senator Erica Smith is a Co-Primary Sponsor for SB 844 along with Senator Chaudhuri.

  3. Dee

    May 29, 2020 at 2:49 pm

    Time to pay your counselors a decent wage! Very very underpaid in North Carolina,not to mention understaffed.

  4. Kevin Mulqueen

    May 30, 2020 at 8:04 am

    I hope those nurses will be adequately paid, given the risk they take.

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