Senate Bill 251 was introduced this session to create a pilot program for school-based mental health services and diversion programs. This bill takes an important first step toward meeting a huge unmet need.
As described by Pam Kasey in her article, The Kids Aren't Alright, "Youth mental health services in West Virginia are in a widely acknowledged crisis. A lack of early-intervention services leaves kids who struggle—with anxiety, say, or depression, or substance abuse—to deteriorate. Some families manage in isolation. Others fail, and their children end up in the state’s care at more than three times the national rate, recent reports show."
The new pilot program in Senate Bill 251 would provide children and their families with needed services in their schools and would divert them, with parental permission, from detention, suspension, or expulsion. This would help address the fact that West Virginia was found to be in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because children with mental health conditions were treated too far from their homes and communities.
Senate Bill 251 is a very short bill, but it has the potential to have a very large impact. It goes first to the Senate Education Committee. Please ask Chair Kenny Mann to put the bill on the agenda. He can be reached at (304) 357-7849 or firstname.lastname@example.org.