Appalachian State University psychology professor Kurt Michael is known for his continued work to better the mental health services provided to young, underprivileged children in rural areas.
In response to his efforts, Michael was honored with the Holshouser Award for Excellence in Public Service this October. The award is given to one faculty member in the University of North Carolina system. A $7,500 cash prize was
given to him, as well.
Michael’s biggest achievement has been founding the Assessment, Support and Counseling Center in 2006.
Over the years, ASC has spread from Watauga County into Ashe and Alleghany counties. Michael said he is looking toward expanding ASC’s reach, but also said it’s important not to stretch its resources too thin.
The goal of ASC is to provide immediate care to underprivileged children while keeping the families totally free of the financial burden typically associated with health care, as well as working to write grants on mental health.
“A lot of the kids in rural settings don’t have a lot of access to mental health care, or for that matter, any form of medical health,” Michael said. “Even if there were providers, a lot of people don’t have the resources to get those services.”
Michael said ASC seeks to assist people through the hardships of achieving health care and problems that may arise through this process.
“If [the families’] barriers are availability of providers, that’s one thing we address, but we also address the financial constraints, because the costs associated with it do not apply with the families of kids,” Michael said.
Michael also spends a great amount of time traveling to schools in other counties and even other states, teaching the importance of mental health.
“I’m often asked to go to other states, just trying to promote the value of good mental health early as a way to prevent further difficulty down the road, and maybe just as important, to promote academic success,” he said.
Michael said ASC’s outreach isn’t merely aimed at children, but also at families, teachers and administrators in the local schools they go to.
“It’s not just kids that we serve, but entire communities,” Michael said. “Whether it’s through education, health promotion or prevention.”
Story: Thomas Culkin, News Reporter
Photo: Halle Keighton, Intern Photographer