Lawrence County Schools to get a full-time mental health counselor

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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. -- The Lawrence County School District is adding a full-time mental health counselor to their staff.

The non-profit, Marlee Sutton Foundation, helped raise the funds to add an additional resource to help students in need.

Scott Norwood, one of the founders of the Marlee Sutton Foundation, says his family's lives changed on March 12, 2018 when their daughter, Marlee, died by suicide. Norwood says at that moment, "we knew then there was a need, that our students were hurting."

The Marlee Sutton Foundation was founded by Scott and Wendy Norwood, Marlee's parents, to raise awareness and education of mental health, to help society move away from the stigma.

We want to help provide licensed mental health counselors and programs for students and faculty in public schools. We believe that every hurting child can be reached.

Scott Norwood says seeking help for mental health issues is a stigma in our society.  "I've been in public safety for 27 years and it was always a stigma, mental health counseling," says Scott. "Since this tragedy, my whole family has been in counseling."

The Norwood family is bringing the same help that helped their own family with devastation to the students of the Lawrence County School System, a full-time mental health counselor.

"There was not a lot of funding available at the time so we just started doing something," says Wendy Norwood.

They raised money by selling t-shirts, hosting galas, golf tournaments, and mud runs. They raised $21,000 and the school board matched it. Scott and Wendy say in less than a year, they were able to fully fund a full-time mental health counselor with $42,000.

Lawrence County Schools' social worker, Allee Kitchens says the counselor will be an additional resource for students. "This is another resource, another opportunity for them to be able to speak with someone on a daily, weekly, monthly basis and work through some problems they may have going on at school or at home," says Kitchens.

Wendy says they can teach and help kids get through situations that parents might not understand.

The Marlee Sutton Foundation's next goal is to provide a mental health counselor for each school within the Lawrence County school district. Wendy says this would be able to help raise healthier kids.

The Norwoods say the new mental health counselor is already in training and should be within the schools by the end of October.

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