The House and Senate passed House Bill 100, will establish a mental health services unit for Delaware elementary schools, unanimously last month.
The bill will provide a full-time school counselor, school social worker, or licensed clinical social worker for every 250 full time students in Kindergarten to 5th Grade. Additionally, a full time school psychologist will be provided for every 700 full time students in grades K-5.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one in five youth are affected by a mental health disorder. Additionally, 50% of lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14. Untreated mental illness leads to negative outcomes including increased risk of dropout, homelessness, substance abuse, other chronic illnesses, incarceration, and possibly suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, ninety percent of people who have taken their own life have had an underlying mental health condition, and suicides are on the rise. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicides are now the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-14.
Obviously, this is a great need for our students and schools, and just look at this bipartisan sponsorship:
|House Bill 100 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Longhurst, Bush, Heffernan, Lambert, Moore, Morrison, Osienski, Schwartzkopf, K.Williams, Baumbach, Bentz, Bolden, Brady, Carson, Chukwuocha, Cooke, Dorsey Walker, Griffith, K.Johnson, Kowalko, Lynn ,Matthews, Minor-Brown, Mitchell, Briggs King, Dukes, M.Smith, Postles, Ramone, D.Short, Shupe, Smyk, Spiegelman, Hensley||House Passes 40-0-1. Baumbach Bennett Bentz Bolden Brady Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Heffernan K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Mitchell Morrison Osienski S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-Anton Briggs King D.Short Dukes Gray Hensley M.Smith Morris Postles Ramone Shupe Smyk Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick||Collins (Absent)|
|Pinkney, Gay, Lockman, S.McBride, Sokola, Sturgeon, Townsend, Brown, Ennis, Hansen, Mantzavinos, Paradee, Poore, Walsh, Lopez, Pettyjohn||Senate Passes 21-0. Brown Ennis Gay Hansen Lockman Mantzavinos Paradee Pinkney Poore S.McBride Sokola Sturgeon Townsend Walsh Bonini Hocker Lawson Lopez Pettyjohn Richardson Wilson||None|
|Current Status:||Sent to the Governor.|
The National Alliance on Mental Illness’ (NAMI) Delaware Chapter released this statement in support of this bill when it was introduced in the last session of the General Assembly:
“Every day, we hear stories about the impacts of mental illness on individuals and families. These impacts are often significant and sometimes irreversible: academic failure; addiction, homelessness, incarceration, suicide.
Mental illness is the most common health condition young people experience affecting one in five, however, between 50-80% do not receive treatment. These conditions usually don’t arrive suddenly. They evolve overtime, and often begin with common warning signs. There are opportunities to intervene early, especially in our schools, because 50% of these conditions begin by age 14. Early intervention leads to better outcomes, often to full recovery.
Delaware families often share stories with us. Here are three, shared with permission: One family has a high schooler who has been hospitalized multiple times, experienced substance abuse, self-harm, and attempts of suicide. Back in elementary school, the parents had reached out to their child’s school concerned about a trauma their child had experienced. But the school didn’t see any problem and only offered academic support, nothing more. Today, just a few years later their child is in a major, life-threatening crisis.
Another family has an 18 year old daughter who has been struggling since about age 15. When she was in school, one teacher expressed vague concern to the parents, but there were no interventions. It was a 9-1-1 call to police regarding their daughter before the parents realized just how serious her needs were. Since then, she has left the state and has little contact with her family.
The final story is that of Director of Advocacy & Education at NAMI Delaware: I’ve been working with NAMI since 2017, but before that I was a classroom teacher. Despite my 25 years of experience and my graduate degree, I never received any mental health training to recognize warning signs and to know how to support a young person in distress. So when my own 18 year old son experienced a mental health crisis, I had no idea how to help him. He came very close to suicide, easily acquiring an illegal firearm. And although he had no criminal history, two years later he was arrested and spent almost 3 years in prison. Today, he is trying to find recovery, but he is also a felon. And like the other stories I shared, my son was never identified as at-risk or received any mental health interventions in school. And they could have changed the course of his life.
Please support HB 100. Investing in early mental health supports for our schools is a small price to pay when you consider the long term costs of societal challenges like incarceration and homelessness which are often the consequences of untreated mental illness. Further, and more importantly, this investment will help ensure that all Delaware’s children have access to the mental health supports they need to live full, healthy lives.