FRANKFORT, Ky. (WYMT) – Two state representatives, including one from Eastern Kentucky, have prefiled a bill that would benefit Kentucky public school students dealing with mental health issues.
BR 185 is a bipartisan effort between Rep. Bobby McCool from Johnson County and Rep. Lisa Willner from Jefferson County.
The proposed legislation, if passed, would allow students the option for excused absences from school if they are dealing with a mental health crisis.
“Anxiety and depression were concerns before the pandemic. Now, with so much uncertainty in their lives, our children are suffering with mental health issues in record numbers,” Rep. McCool said in a news release. “I think it speaks volumes that it was brought to us by high school students who know firsthand how trauma has impacted their lives. Stress is their new normal, and I’m proud of them for identifying ways to manage it.”
The two lawmakers were approached with the idea by high school students Cole Butcher of Johnson County and Kameron Julian of Jefferson County.
Butcher, a student at Johnson Central High School in Paintsville, shared the measure will have an impact beyond the excused absence by opening conversations about mental health and helping schools identify students who may benefit from additional mental health resources.
“After seeing some alarming data about the state of students’ mental health during COVID-19, I decided something needed to be done to assist in preventing the worsening of students’ mental health as kids reintegrate into in-person schooling,” Butcher said in the release. “This bill allows students to take mental health days, but the true effects are broader. In rural Kentucky, there is a stigma among parents regarding their children’s mental health. This bill would make headway in breaking this stigma. If parents see that schools are taking mental health seriously by adopting these mental health days, then parents may be more open-minded to take their children’s mental health seriously and have those tough conversations.
The Kentucky General Assembly has passed several pieces of legislation aimed at addressing the improvement of children’s mental health, including the School Safety and Resiliency Act of 2019. That measure required local boards of education to develop a plan for implementing a trauma-informed approach and drew attention to the social and emotional aspects of pediatric health.
BR 185 will be up for consideration during the 2022 Regular Session, which starts January 4th, 2022.
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