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Pilot project to improve care for the diverse, rural and underserved population of children in Bladen County.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – UNC Health will partner with Bladen County Schools to expand much-needed behavioral health care for children in the rural county. The pilot project is supported by funding from The Duke Endowment.

The school-based treatment model will add therapists and open virtual care centers in all Bladen County schools. If potential needs are identified, parents can opt to have their children evaluated and treated in the schools. The virtual care centers will allow telehealth visits with UNC child and adolescent psychiatrists if needed. The project is expected to begin later in the Fall semester and treat hundreds of children a year for issues such as depression, anxiety, and more.

“Youth across our state are experiencing a behavioral health crisis, and a lack of resources in rural areas is compounding the challenges,” said Dr. Mike Steiner, Pediatrician in Chief at UNC Children’s. “We are optimistic that this project presents a terrific opportunity to turn the tide and improve treatment for behavioral health conditions. We believe this model can be sustainable and spread to other school districts in North Carolina and beyond.”

Bladen County is rural and diverse, with no registered child and adolescent psychiatrists, adolescent medicine specialists, or developmental/behavioral specialists. Many children are currently going outside the county for primary and specialty care.

“We are pleased to work with UNC Health on this project, which will improve the care available for our school-aged children,” said Dr. Jason Atkinson, Superintendent, Bladen County School District. “By addressing behavioral health issues in an innovative way, we will decrease school absenteeism and improve school performance.”

Community Care of the Lower Cape Fear (CCLCF) will also play an important role in the care provided. They will provide pharmacy expertise and management as well as supply a community health worker who will partner with social workers in the school to help families connect to community supports. CCLCF is an independent non-profit that has been improving health in southeastern North Carolina for more than 20 years.

“This partnership is a unique chance to expand the care and treatment of kids across Bladen County,” said Dr. Megan Rose, Deputy Director and Network Pharmacist with CCLCF.

UNC Health is helping lead other efforts across the state to improve school-based behavioral health care. Examples include:

  • IMPACTT-NC: IMProving Adolescent and Child Health Through Telepsychiatry in NC
  • CATCH-Johnston: Community Access for Teen and Child behavioral Health in Johnston County
  • Part of the Carolina School-Based Telehealth Learning Collaborative


About UNC Health
UNC Health is a state entity and an affiliated enterprise of the University of North Carolina system, comprised of 15 hospitals, 19 hospital campuses and more than 900 clinics along with the clinical patient care programs of the UNC School of Medicine (SOM). It exists to improve the health and well-being of North Carolinians and others we serve and to further the teaching mission of the University of North Carolina SOM. UNC Health provided more than $141 million in Charity Care in fiscal year 2022, and more than $522 million over the last five years. Our hospitals have received numerous awards and recognition for quality care, patient safety and the overall patient experience. For more information, please visit