TULSA, Okla — A bill aimed at improving mental health resources for schools passed through the house, and could soon be moving to the Governor's desk. Now, teachers are calling for action from the state.
"It's not even an option, honestly. We're at a crisis and if we don't start addressing mental health issues in schools we're going to be addressing those issues in prisons later on," Union 8th Grade Center teacher Betty Collins said.
Senate Bill 446 directs the state department to provide information, training, and resources to teachers and administrators to address mental health in schools.
After passing the Senate and the House, the Senate will now consider an amendment before the bill can go to the Governor. That includes information over evidence-based strategies to prevent at-risk behaviors.
At the Union 8th Grade Center, they have two counselors serving a population of about twelve hundred students.
"With today's really complex issues that kids are facing we simply need more bodies. So this will not replace a living, breathing counselor in the building... but it will bridge that gap," Collins said.
One teacher says although staffing is the long term goal, it's encouraging to see progress from the legislature. Especially as many Green Country districts face high populations of students with trauma-based backgrounds.
"The focus on trauma and mental health has been something that teachers are welcoming, because it's something we've been talking about for a while. It's good to see the government focusing on that issue and on our schools," Union 6th/7th Grade Center teacher Brendan Jarvis said.
The bill was authored as lawmakers saw an increase in suicides and depression across Oklahoma.
"We are noticing that we see it more and more. We have a lot of students with incarcerated parents. There's complicated issues going on in society and at home. I think social media has had a role in that," Jarvis said.
This is the last week for lawmakers to consider bills. Educators are hopeful a budget will be finalized by the end of the month.
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