House Bill 100
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO FREE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
This Act establishes a mental health services unit for Delaware elementary schools. The unit is at a ratio of 250 full-time equivalent students grades K-5 for a full-time school counselor, school social worker, or licensed clinical social worker. Additionally a unit ratio of 700 full time equivalent students for grades K-5 for employment of a full-time school psychologist.
NAMI Delaware supports HB 100
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.
While the bill as written did not pass House Appropriations in 2019, significant investments toward mental health supports in schools have been made. JFC approved $15 million to go to school counselors, psychologists and social workers in high need elementary schools. Rep. Longhurst is committed to bringing these crucial mental health supports to all elementary schools in the next legislative session.