JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Johnson City School Board gave preliminary approval to a plan that would double the district’s investment in mental health services, jumping from about $500,000 to just over $1 million.

The increased funding would allow the district to hire 16 master’s-level therapists and move away from it’s reliance on contractors from Frontier Health.

“We’re excited to hopefully increase capacity for our students,” Supervisor of Safety and Mental Health Greg Wallace told News Channel 11.

The board approved the proposal unanimously.

“We have some really fantastic services in place, probably more than many of the districts around us, but we’ve found an opportunity us to make sure that we get even more services for our students,” said Board Chair Kathy Hall.

The plan aims to provide greater access to mental health care in school.

For example: Science Hill currently has seven school counselors and one therapist from Frontier Health. Next year they’ll have eight school counselors, three new masters-level therapists and a Frontier Health contractor.

The plan aims to provide greater access to mental health care in school.

Wallace said the plan is a response to the increased need for mental health services among students in part due to the pandemic and increased social media use.

“Kids are so connected and there are some positives to that but there’s also some negatives to that because they never get to turn down the drama,” said Wallace.

Funding for the new staff will be voted on as a part of the district’s 2023-24.

If the funding is approved, Wallace said, the district plans to hire new staff over the summer.