U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux was joined by local leaders on Tuesday to celebrate more than $1 million in federal funds coming to Forsyth County.
On Tuesday, Bourdeaux hosted a press conference at the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, 212 Webb Street, to announce funding for three community projects from the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, a $1.5 billion omnibus spending bill approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.
As part of the bill:
· $750,000 for Forsyth County School District’s Spark! early education program to provide family services, such as early learning, English language programs and transportation options to access education options;
· $90,000 for Forsyth County’s Insight Program to fund two additional substance abuse counselors for local schools;
· $235,000 was approved for Forsyth County’s Crisis Intervention Team for training on how to most effectively respond to those having a behavioral health crisis.
Bourdeaux said with Forsyth being one of the fastest-growing counties in the country “We want to make sure that our social services are keeping up with that kind of growth, and all of these help address that, making sure that people have substance abuse treatment, particularly our children”
“All of these things are things we need to build into our community, making sure that we’re supporting everybody so they can have access to opportunities, so that they can be all they can be,” she said.
Bourdeaux and other speakers said programming to address mental health or substance abuse early in life can prevent issues down the line.
During the ceremony, Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden said as one of the state’s most affluent areas, the school system often is not eligible for grants that other systems receive.
“But, living in the most affluent community, we still have families and students in need. A number of our families live in poverty, about 15% in our community,” he said. “I realize, percentage-wise, that’s not a large percentage, but for our school system, that’s more than 7,000 kids that live in poverty, and we need to reach those families.
“In addition to that, we have a homeless population in Forsyth County. A lot of people don’t realize that we have students who are completely on their own.
Bearden said the system’s 96% graduation rate could rise even higher if there were more resources focused on students who struggle.
The Insight Program will also go toward students, in the form of the new counselor positions.
“This additional funding will allow to hire two additional counselors and enable the county to continue working toward its goal of having a substance abuse counselor in all seven of its traditional high schools and ensure that the students have the resources they need to stay on track,” Bourdeaux said. “It will also enable more effective collection of data on best practices and strategies to enhance the program’s impact.”
Forsyth County District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills said she previously worked with Bourdeaux when Mills served as the board of commissioners’ chair in 2021, when the funding was discussed.
Mills said the approval showed a willingness to reach across lines – both between the county and the school system and political parties, as Bourdeaux is a Democrat and all members of the BOC and Board of Education are Republicans – to reach community goals.
“We get into this divide that this is a school system issue, this is not a board of commissioners issue or another labeling divide, this is a Democrat and you’re a Republican, and I just think that this is representative of why we should all work together. And I think the community wants to see everybody working together and coming together to do good things for our community as a whole.”
The intervention team funding will help members of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office respond to calls involving a mental health crisis.
“For those of you that don’t know, we’ve been doing this program for a couple of years now, part of an effort to do just as the Congresswoman mentioned, reduce the prevalence of mental illness in our jail, also really attack the stigma that comes along with those diagnoses out in the community, to better train our deputies on how to respond appropriately to those calls for service,” said FCSO Sgt. Terry Hawkins.
“Our team, by every way that you can describe success, has been very successful.