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Building Better Mental Health for Children in Need

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This article, originally featured on, contains quotes from Bree Bess about the Foundation's support of the Epworth Center of Counseling (ECC) in the Midlands.

Mental health care is an important part of overall health care. This is especially true for children in South Carolina. Suicide rates for people ages 10 to 24 are rising, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The South Carolina Department of Mental Health notes the increase in suicide rates is highest in children ages 10 to 14.

Nearly 1 in 4 children in the state have one or more emotional, behavioral or developmental conditions. Children in state juvenile justice and social service systems are more likely to experience mental and physical health disorders.

In 2019, the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation joined Epworth Children’s Home (ECH) to start the Epworth Center for Counseling (ECC) in the Midlands. The goal of the (ECC) is to give more access to counseling for high-risk children and families.

ECH also launched a site near Marion. There are offices in Charleston, Florence and Hilton Head Island. The ECC serves 21 counties in our state.

“Epworth has done a great job building community partnerships and increasing access to mental health services for our state’s highest need children,” says Bree Bess, program officer with the Foundation.

The ECC served 92 clients in the first grant year. It served 383 clients in the third grant year. That’s a 316 percent increase. Data from the state Department of Social Services (DSS) credits ECC with reuniting families.

Epworth is now a preferred provider of assessments and mental health services for children in foster care. It also receives referrals to serve high-needs patients in the Department of Juvenile Justice and DSS.

The success of the Midlands ECC has led to growth in the program. A new grant from the Foundation will help the center expand in the Upstate and Lowcountry beginning in 2023.

*The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the South Carolina Department of Mental Health are independent organizations that provide health information you might find helpful.

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