Bucks Lawmaker to Host Hearing on Mental Health Services in Schools in Feb.
State Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks) Building on what she learned at the Safe Schools seminar in January will co-host the panel in at Washington Crossing United Methodist Church on Thursday February 13 at 1o a.m.
The hearing will be co-hosted by Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (D-Philadelphia). Thomas and Kenyatta crafted House Bill 1622, also known as Phillip’s Law, after an 11-year-old boy in Rep. Kenyatta’s district was bullied in school and took his life after he was unable to reach the school’s guidance counselor that fateful day.
“Mental health is an issue that does not discriminate,” Thomas said. “It affects all ages, races, genders and classes. Chances are that each of us knows an individual who has struggled with mental health issues, and we all hope that those close to us would be able to get the necessary assistance in times of desperation.
When an 11-year-old takes his life, everyone must take stock of how and why children can get that far in their despair,” Kenyatta said. “The tragedy of Phillip’s passing sheds light on the fact that school mental health professionals are not always available or equipped to identify and intervene when a child is suffering. In fact, there is no mandate for schools to retain mental health staff, and there certainly is not enough funding provided for it. But there should be.”
House Bill 1622 would require the Department of Education to investigate the number of mental health professionals in schools in order to make recommendations on how to increase the number of school mental health professionals we need to meet nationally accepted standards.
“The Pennridge School District released the results of an anonymous survey of its students that revealed 40 students from the class of 2020 had attempted suicide one or more times in the previous years,” Thomas said. “They also reported an increase in suicide attempts from 3% to 4% among the district’s sixth-graders.”
“Mental health is an issue that does not discriminate,” Thomas said. “It affects all ages, races, genders and classes. Chances are that each of us knows an individual who has struggled with mental health issues, and we all hope that those close to us would be able to get the necessary assistance in times of desperation. Unfortunately, as many as 60% of students do not receive the treatment they need due to stigma and lack of access to services.”
HB1622 was referred to the House Education Committee in June 2019.