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Bill Would Add Mental Health Services in KY Schools

Young people struggling with mental health issues often face obstacles to getting help.  (@epicphotographymb1/Twenty20)
Young people struggling with mental health issues often face obstacles to getting help. (@epicphotographymb1/Twenty20)
February 18, 2019

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky House will now consider a bill that passed unanimously in the Senate.

Senate Bill 1 focuses on addressing the gap in mental health resources for students.

Sponsored by Sen. Max Wise of Campbellsville, the bill calls for providing mental health professionals in every school, one for every 1,500 students.

Chris Barrier, director of law enforcement for Montgomery County Schools, says lawmakers behind the bill were affected by the tragedy of the Marshall County school shooting in 2018, but didn't want to act in haste.

"And so what they did was, they started looking at realistic ways of how they could make kids safer in schools,” he relates. “And so over the past year, when they looked at legislation for Senate Bill 1, they took a very holistic approach at how to keep kids safe, how to have early interventions in place."

According to a 2017 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 percent of high school students in Kentucky have experienced symptoms of depression, and 15 percent said they've had suicidal thoughts.

Donald Rogers, chief clinical officer at Bluegrass.org, a statewide network of community mental health centers, calls the bill a step in the right direction.

"I believe that there does need to be more clinical services available to the schools,” Rogers states. “I think it needs to be a little more clear what the role of those mental health professionals needs to be."

Rogers points out there aren't enough mental health professionals in Kentucky as it is, which adds automatic complications if the bill passes.

"The other element is, the bill, as far as I'm aware, has no funding in it,” he states. “So, I don't know where the funding for all these mental health professionals is going to come from."

Senate Bill 1 is now in the House Education Committee.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY