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NCDHHS Secretary Kody H. Kinsley to Provide Keynote Address at ‘Why Us Kids?’ Rally for Youth Mental Health

RALEIGH — North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Kody H. Kinsley will be the keynote speaker at the second annual ‘Why Us Kids?’ rally in Franklin, N.C. The event was created by Gracie Parker, an 11-year-old youth mental health activist who shares her lived experience to raise awareness of the ongoing youth mental health crisis and advocate for school-based, trauma-informed support services for students of all ages across the state.

At 5 years old, Gracie began to talk with other children at school about working through the trauma of losing her mother to substance use as an infant. She learned that many of her classmates were navigating their own struggles and began to understand first-hand the impact of the youth mental health crisis on her generation. Inspired by this experience to become a catalyst for change, Gracie created ‘Why Us Kids?’ to raise awareness for youth mental health. She shares her story at public events and with local, state and federal leaders to advocate for increased school resources to support children’s mental health, particularly for elementary school students.

Like Gracie, more than 70% of children say they do not have access to the mental health care they need. North Carolina public schools fall significantly short of meeting nationally recommended student-to-staff ratios for specialized instructional support personnel, including school psychologists, nurses, counselors and social workers — in 2022, the state had less than 20% of the recommended number of school psychologists and social workers for the student population.

One of NCDHHS’ top priorities is to build a behavioral health system that meets children and families where they are. The department is investing $7 million in services like school-based telehealth to ensure children have better access to mental health treatment. NCDHHS also trained more than 1,200 school staff across the state in mental health first aid to ensure they know how to respond if a student shows signs of needing mental health support.

The public and media are invited to join ‘Why Us Kids?’ on Sunday, April 28, to learn more about the importance of school-based resources to improve mental health outcomes for children and families in North Carolina. 

Why Us Kids? Rally for Youth Mental Health
Kody H. Kinsley, Secretary, NCDHHS 
(Expected speaking time 2:30 p.m.)
Gracie Parker, Youth Mental Health Advocate
(Expected speaking times 2:10 and 3 p.m.)
Jack Horton, Mayor, Franklin, North Carolina
Gary Shields, Chair, Macon County Board of Commissioners
Brent Holbrooks,
Sheriff, Macon County
Sunday, April 28, 2024
2 – 5 p.m.

The event concludes with a march to Franklin City Hall at 4:30 p.m. 

The Gazebo on the Square
Near the corner of E. Main St. and Iotla St.
Downtown Franklin, NC 28734

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