Today, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, and Education held a hearing to discuss addressing the mental health needs of children, an issue that is often an afterthought in communities throughout the country.
Deb Delisle, Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education; and Pamela Hyde, Administrator of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration both testified on the important role of identifying mental health challenges early, seeking treatment, and collaboration between communities and schools.
In January, the Administration released Now is the Time an action plan for addressing school safety, a response to the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting which resulted in 26 children and educators killed by gunfire. Today’s testimony highlighted many of the proposals put forth in the Now is the Time plan, including supporting a safe and positive school climate and increasing the number of mental health professionals who are trained to work with children.
Last month, CEC and its division, the Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders, issued Congressional testimony that outlined four policy considerations for school safety plans:
- School safety policy proposals should use an interdisciplinary approach that reinforces a partnership between education, juvenile justice, mental health, social welfare, and community engagement systems;
- School safety policy proposals should require implementation of evidence based practices that address prevention and response while ameliorating the stigma associated with mental illness;
- School safety policy proposals should focus on the impact of mental health challenges on students’ social, educational, and employment outcomes; and
- School safety policy proposals should confront and remedy the national shortage of special educators and specialized instructional support personnel who are trained to address the complex needs of students with mental health difficulties.
Additionally, the CEC/CCBD testimony provides practical steps policymakers can take to put these recommendations into action, such as supporting increased professional development for all school personnel; embracing whole school reforms that reinforce the important role of having a positive school climate and the collection of data and analysis tools to study and respond to school climate information; and addressing the national shortage of special educators and specialized instructional support personnel.