Bill mandating mental health professionals in schools is a good move

Published 12:34 pm Monday, March 19, 2018

Friday the state House of Representatives passed legislation mandating mental health professionals in Kentucky schools.

The measure, aimed at improving school safety, passed almost unanimously. It was introduced shortly after the school shooting in Marshall County.

HB 604 requires mental health professionals in schools where funding is available. We believe the next steps is finding a way to make funding for this very critical addition to our public schools mandatory.

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Students today are bogged down and facing many issues. The stigma of mental health and mental illnesses makes it difficult for some to talk about their problems.

But statistics suggest that just because they’re not vocalizing the issues, doesn’t mean they are not present.

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18 live with a mental health condition and 11 percent have a mood disorder.

Additionally, 10 percent struggle with a behavior or conduct disorder and 8 percent have an anxiety disorder.

These conditions have life-long impacts on students and, left untreated, can be fatal.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 24, and 90 percent of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness, according to NAMI.

In addition to revisiting or revising safety protocols and gun laws, mental health is one of the most commonly mentioned issues surrounding school shootings.

Making mental health professionals available in schools will release some of the heavy burden on teachers to play the role of counselor in addition to educator. Furthermore, counselors can spend more time focusing on college and career readiness, while students are in the hands of well-trained mental health professionals.

Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, a former Frankfort High School teacher, said it best when he spoke in support of the bill.

“This is an investment in our most important precious resources, our students,” he said. “It could possibly keep these students from being incarcerated later if we pass this today.”

We urge the state Senate to move forward with this legislation to protect our children and give them a brighter future.