DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Henry County Schools is hoping to expand mental health counseling services for its students with millions of dollars coming from the U.S Department of Education in Washington.

“Mental health is a top priority for me and this school system,” Superintendent Lori Beasley said.

Right now, the school system has one social worker to serve students funded through a state grant and has to contract with Threefold Counseling Services if a student has a mental health issue.

“We’ve made a lot of progress over the past couple of years as far as employing for mental health but a lot of that has had to come out of local dollars,” Beasley said.

Superintendent Lori Beasley said since they have been using the service since February of 2021, they have seen an increase in students benefitting from mental health counseling.

“Threefold actually comes into the schools, so they are not missing instructional times for a half-day checkout when they have to go to Dothan.

However, counseling can be taxing for a rural school system.

Now, the U.S department is providing $280 million to school systems like Henry County to relieve their pockets — and bring in their own mental health coordinators.

“If it matches our criteria we want it may open the door for more social workers or more counseling involved although we made great strides we still have a ways to go,” Beasley said.

Beasley said while they are interested in using the federal dollars to bring in more help it could come with a challenge like hiring.

“We’ll have to do some recruitment and offer incentives to bring the most qualified people in.”