Students spend more than 16,000 hours a year in classrooms. Proposed legislation would teach the teacher and other school staff to recognize signs of mental health concerns in students.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has introduced a bill to provide support for teachers so they can learn about the key warning signs of mental health problems in students as well as the impact that mental health conditions can have on a student’s ability to learn and behave in the classroom.
Sponsored by Klobuchar and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the Helping Educators Support All Students Act (S.648) is designed to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to add support for teachers and other school professionals to receive training on how to recognize signs that indicate that a student may have mental health problems.
The bill would create a four-year discretionary grant for state education agencies to provide training for teachers and other school staff in recognizing mental health issues. That training could be provided by qualified specialized instructional school personnel or in partnership with a community mental health program.
Klobuchar and Collins modeled the proposed legislation on the “Minnesota Approach.” For the past several years, licensed teachers in Minnesota have been required, as part of renewing their licenses, to participate in in-service training sessions on the key warning signs of early-onset mental health conditions in children and adolescents. A follow-up survey showed that all participants improved their understanding of how the family of individuals with mental illness are affected, and 97 percent of participants indicated that after the program, they were better equipped to respond to the needs of both children and adults with mental illness.
APA expressed support for the bill in a March 22 letter to Klobuchar in which APA Medical Director James H. Scully Jr., M.D., said the initiative “paves the way for highly successful and evidence-based training initiatives . . . to empower more of these professionals with the knowledge of mental illness, the ability to detect warning signs, and the abil ity to take appropriate action in linking children and adolescents to the services they need.”
Such an initiative would pave the way, Scully said, for highly successful and evidence-based training initiatives, such as the American Psychiatric Foundation’s “Typical or Troubled?” school program.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. ■
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