There’s forward movement with SB 224, the bill we co-sponsored, authored by State Senator Anthony J. Portantino, as it cleared the Assembly Education Committee with bipartisan support.
“We can end the stigma surrounding the discussion of mental health and get help to those who need it,” stated Senator Portantino. “As schools transition back to in person learning, teachers are bound to be faced with behavioral health challenges resulting from the emotional impact of the pandemic on their students. Unrecognized, untreated or late treated mental illness elevates the risk of mental health crises such as suicide and self-injury, diminishes prospects for recovery and can contribute to substance abuse and other negative coping behaviors. We want to make sure we are not neglecting these critical issues and giving our kids the help they need.”
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 1 in 3 California high school students surveyed reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row. Nearly 1 in 5 reported that they have seriously considered attempting suicide.
SB 224 requires local educational agencies and charter schools which currently offer one or more courses in health education to middle or high schools students include mental health content in those courses. Educational topics would include but are not limited to the overarching themes and core principles of mental health. Under the amended version, SB 224 would also require that the California Department of Education develop a plan to expand mental health instruction in California public schools on or before January 1, 2024.
“NAMI-CA is pleased to see this bill move forward, and are infinitely grateful to have such a bold leader in Senator Portantino,” stated Jessica Cruz, CEO of NAMI-CA. “While the amendments we took in today’s hearing mean that mental health instruction will not reach as many children as we intended, NAMI-CA is committed to this fight – as we have been for the last eight years – so that all California students, as well as their families, will soon benefit from this movement.”
Full press release from Senator Portantino