OLYMPIA—This afternoon the House of Representatives passed two bipartisan measures sponsored by Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo, to address students’ mental health issues in Washington schools before they become crisis situations.
Studies show that students’ unmet mental health needs pose barriers to learning, development, and success in school, and that there’s a greater need to identify and assist students struggling with emotional and mental health issues.
“I dealt with multiple adolescent suicide attempts or deaths last year. Our young people are giving up hope and it is time that we stop working in silos,” said Ortiz-Self of her experience working as a school counselor in Snohomish County. “School counselors, social workers and psychologists are the first people who have to deal with these tragedies that cut across economic, ethnic and socio-cultural lines. We have to collaborate to make sure that schools and agencies come together to meet the needs of our kids.”
House Bill 1900, which passed on a 64-33 vote, helps prioritize safe learning environments for all students by allowing school counselors, social workers, and psychologists to focus on student mental health, work with at-risk and marginalized students, perform risk assessments, and collaborate with mental health professionals.
Ortiz-Self’s measure establishes the Professional Collaboration Lighthouse Grant Program to assist school districts with early adoption and implementation of mental health professional collaboration time.
The House also passed HB 2381 on a 58-39 vote. This legislation creates a task force to review the projected need of school districts for each category of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists; the current capacity of the state for meeting this need; and alternative routes and preparation programs to continue to address the social and emotional needs of Washington students.
Both bills now go to the Senate for further consideration.