On funding school mental health services: HB 100
Take a look at any public school across Delaware and you’ll find teachers, administrators and support staff doing amazing things for students every day. Whether in the classroom or through remote instruction, educators are doing more than ever to guide their students to success even in these unprecedented times.
But even the best teacher can struggle to reach a child when serious personal challenges lie below the surface. Challenges like the aftermath of a traumatic incident at home or violence in their community. Joblessness. Hunger. Homelessness. Depression.
These are things a classroom teacher can’t see and probably doesn’t know about that student. But she might see shadows in missed homework, a sudden drop-off in grades, acting out in class or playground fights.
It’s the school guidance counselor’s job to identify those underlying issues and work to help that student overcome them, especially at an early age. But, over the years, we simply have not given counselors the support they need to do those things.
That’s why I introduced legislation to finally dedicate real resources to school mental health services.
With House Bill 100, we would establish a mental health services funding unit for every Delaware elementary school, allowing schools to hire a full-time school counselor, school social worker, or licensed clinical social worker for every 250 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The bill also would allow the hiring of one full-time school psychologist or licensed mental health therapist for every 700 elementary school students.
The need for more adequate school mental health services is great, and has become dire as a result of the pandemic, which unleashed a wave of stress, anxiety and trauma that has affected adults and children alike. I’ve been working on House Bill 100 since 2019, and we can’t wait any longer to enact this plan. Pre-pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that one in six U.S. children aged 2-8 years had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder, such as depression, ADHD, anxiety or other behavioral problems. Untreated mental illness can lead to increased risk of dropout, homelessness, substance abuse, other chronic illnesses, incarceration, and even suicide.