SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson urged educators, parents, school board members, community leaders and all residents to voice their support for state legislation that will improve mental health services for students.
Torlakson is putting a major focus on mental health awareness and treatment, suicide prevention, and school safety as the Legislature reconvenes August 6 for the final weeks of the 2017–18 session.
“Students need to have good mental health to succeed in the classroom and in life. Schools can help by creating a caring and supportive environment and by working to help identify mental health problems early so students can receive the treatment they need,” said Torlakson, who started his career as a high school science teacher and served as a track and cross country coach.
Torlakson urged educators and the public to support the following bills to help our students by enhancing mental health care in schools.
SB 972 by Senator Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, requires public schools, private schools, and public and private institutions of higher education that issue pupil identification cards to include the telephone number for a suicide prevention hotline or the Crisis Text Line.
SB 1019 by Senator Jim Beall, D-San Jose, requires the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission to consult with the Superintendent of Public Instruction and create a grant program for school district mental health partnerships.
AB 1436 by Assemblymember Mark Levine, D-San Rafael, requires an applicant for license as a marriage and family therapist, educational psychologist, clinical social worker, or professional clinical counselor to show that he or she has completed a minimum of six hours of coursework or applied experience in suicide risk assessment and intervention.
AB 2022 by Assemblymember Kansen Chu, D-Milpitas, requires all schools to inform, at least twice a year, pupils and parents or guardians how to access available student mental health services on campus or in the community. The bill also allows counties to use funds from the Mental Health Services Act to provide grants to schools to develop and distribute the notifications.
AB 2639 by Assemblymember Marc Berman, D-Los Altos, requires schools that serve students in grades 7 through 12 to review policies on pupil suicide prevention every five years and update the policy, if necessary. AB 2639 also permits Local Educational Agencies to update the policy more frequently.
Bills must pass before the Legislature adjourns on August 31, 2018. Governor Jerry Brown has 30 days to sign or veto any legislation.
Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention revealing a significant increase in suicide rates has put a spotlight on this problem.
Suicide rates increased significantly in nearly every U.S. state from 1999 through 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced. Youth suicide is the second-leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 to 24.
Torlakson encourages people in crisis to use suicide prevention services, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-8255.