State Rep. John Galloway introduced a bill in the House last week that would create a mental health care services clearinghouse to assist school administrations in linking families to community mental health resources.
Approximately one in six children between the ages of 6 and 17 in the United States has a treatable mental health disorder, such as depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, Galloway said, only half of these children receive counseling in part due to the school counselor to student ratio in Pennsylvania is 1 to 387, he said.
“Untreated mental health issues are one of the most pressing issues our society faces,” said Galloway, D-Bucks. “Early detection and treatment of mental health issues literally saves lives, mitigating the effects of the illnesses and giving our children the skills to cope with them.
“But our schools lack the resources needed to provide care and services to their students.”
Children left with untreated mental health disorders often struggle with behavioral and academic issues in school, such as delinquency and dropping out; have trouble with the criminal justice system; abuse drugs as a means to cope with their illness; become dependent on social services; and, in extreme cases, take their own lives.
Galloway says there is a critical need for a network between schools, communities and health providers to share information about mental health care resources and programs. His bill, H.B. 2331, would create a mental health care services clearinghouse to serve as an information link between these three communities.
The mental health care services clearinghouse would serve as a publicly accessible registry of mental health care resources available across the commonwealth. The clearinghouse would help school personnel connect families to community mental health resources. In addition, this clearinghouse will allow school personnel to learn about and take advantage of existing programs and resources for their schools.
“This clearinghouse will create a one-stop-shop for mental health resources, saving schools time and resources and improving both the quantity and quality of mental health programming available to those in need,” Galloway said.
Gallloway two introduced bills earlier this year also dealing with mental health issues for children in public schools throughout the state.
HB 2194 would provide grants to support school-linked mental health services. HB 2187 would establish a statewide children’s mental health ombudsman to help expand access to mental health resources for children and to identify systemic issues in access to treatment.
The new measure has 13 co-sponsors, including one Republican, Rep Thom Murt (132) and has yet to be assigned to committee as of publication.