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Spotting mental health needs in students

Posted: 6:37 PM, Mar 05, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-05 19:37:51-05

TULSA, OK (KJRH) — Oklahoma legislators could soon be providing teachers with more ways to help students' mental health. A bill would tap into the state's Departments of Education and Mental Health to create programs for teachers to give them the tools to spot and help mental health issues.

"This is a number-one interest for our teachers, because everything links back to it," said Patti Ferguson-Palmer, President of Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association. "The child's ability to learn, the child's ability to behave, to interact with others - everything goes back to mental health."

Ferguson-Palmer says Tulsa Public Schools has been pushing to move away from punishment, instead trying to understand and work with students' behavior. Up until now, she says the training simply hasn't been there.

The bill would give school employees information, training, and resources to recognize and help mental health needs in students.

"It's critical," said Lucinda Morte, who is the Mental Health Association Oklahoma Sunbridge Clinical Coordinator. "Being able to identify a child's mental health is so important, not only for teachers but also for families."

Teachers would go through training to learn about the impact of trauma and childhood experiences on a student's ability to learn. The bill sailed unanimously through the Senate and is headed to the House. While it wouldn't come into effect in the 2018-2019 school year, officials could begin working on the program in summer 2019.

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