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Pennsylvania House Education Committee Advances Bills to Boost Student Mental Health Support

Recent legislative developments in the Pennsylvania House Education Committee include the passage of three bills aimed at enhancing mental health support in public education.

The first bill, House Bill 1519, allows parents to designate up to three mental health days per year as excused absences for their children, aligning with practices already adopted in many districts. Representative Napoleon Nelson, who sponsored the bill, highlighted its significance in prioritizing the mental well-being of young people. The bill was passed with a 14-11 vote along party lines, with Minority Chairman Jesse Topper expressing concerns about the lack of medical professional involvement in granting these mental health days.

House Bill 1553, which garnered unanimous support, mandates that schools with student IDs include suicide prevention hotline numbers on the IDs and display these numbers in principal and counselor offices. This initiative addresses the growing mental health crisis among school-aged children in the state.

The third bill, House Bill 1665, introduced by Representative Mandy Steele, seeks to establish the School Counseling Services Act. It emphasizes the need for a structured approach to mental health services in schools. The bill requires school counselors to devote at least 80% of their time to direct and indirect student services, limiting administrative tasks to a maximum of 20%. Despite concerns from Republicans about the potential burden on school systems, the bill passed with a 14-11 vote along party lines.

Committee Majority Chairman Peter Schweyer underscored the urgency of these measures in the face of challenges like staffing shortages. He emphasized the importance of progressing towards a school system that better meets student needs.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that one in six children aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder annually, affecting approximately 98,000 children in Pennsylvania.

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Patricia M Campbell 1932-2024

Pat graduated from Fannett Township High School in 1950 and received her BA in Education from, known then as, Shippensburg State Teachers College. .

James Patrick McNally III 1947-2024

James was known for his dedication and excellence in his professional career, where he made lasting contributions and built strong relationships with his colleagues.

Brenda Jackson Liu 1945-2024

Upon retirement, Brenda worked as a part-time nurse at the Migrant Health in Gettysburg. During this time she traveled to migrant camps all over Pennsylvania.

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