THOMASVILLE — The Vashti Center has received a $10,000 grant from Mitchell Electric Membership Cooperative in order to help close the gap between providers and children in southwest Georgia.

Vashti currently partners with school systems in their six-county catchment area in order to make therapeutic and clinical services more readily available to students. The grant money will be used to continue expanding those services in Mitchell County.

"We are very excited about our partnership with Mitchell County Schools and the opportunity to help their students realize their true potential," said Vashti executive director Elijah Miranda. "Any time we can make the connection and access to mental health services more readily available to children and families is an opportunity well served."

Clinics are held every other Friday at Mitchell County High School so children are not required to travel to Thomasville for appointments. The clinics provide health screenings, telepsychiatry and medication management.

The program started in 2018 when Vashti placed a therapist in Mitchell County who began with a caseload of eight students. Within a few months, that caseload had increased to more than 40 students, necessitating the addition of a second therapist.

Together, the two therapists currently serve 87 students in Mitchell County, and Vashti anticipates a third therapist will be needed in the near future.

The South Georgia Legacy Fund donated an additional $2,000 to Vashti to be used in Mitchell County, bringing the total to $12,000.

According to Voices for Georgia's Children, 65 percent of children with major depression in Georgia do not receive the mental health services they need.

Georgia is also experiencing a provider shortage. On average, there is only one social worker for every 2,742 students in the state. Vashti says the recommended ratio is one social worker per 250 students.

The grant was awarded to Vashti by the Mitchell Electric Charitable Fund, which was created as part of Mitchell EMC's "Operation Round Up" program. The program gives Mitchell EMC customers the option to round up their monthly bill to the next highest dollar. The proceeds are then deposited into the fund, and any nonprofit organization that operates in Baker, Dougherty, Mitchell and Worth counties is able to apply for grants.

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