Breaking the Stigma

Pennsylvania lawmaker proposes allowing mental health screening in public school districts

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Mental health is a topic that isn’t always discussed or treated.

“We never really took the time to tap into mental health, what’s really going on? Why are you absent from school? Why are you late every day?” said Michelle Collins with the Woodland Hills School District.

But that’s now changing as specifically school districts try to break the stigma.

“All students, all genders, all races have different needs. We try to tap into what those needs are a lot of time based on behavior and conversations with the students,” Collins said.

One state representative wants to take it a step further. He’s proposing a pilot program that would allow public school districts to screen students in sixth through 12th grade for mental health annually.

“We want to create parameters in which this legislation has to operate, but from there we want to make sure schools have the ability to operate it on what best fits their needs,” said Representative Michael Schlossberg.

The program would be run under the Department of Education, but the information about each student goes no further than the school. Parents also would have the option to opt-out.

“I think it’s really important, I don’t think mental health is focused on a lot in those ages and that’s when those issues develop,” said Emily Kasun.

Now as the bill is written, it would provide $10 million to be distributed to all schools participating to help fill the gaps with resources.

“There is not nearly enough mental health workforce to actually provide the assistance to anybody, kids or adults need. I hope this is just another way we can further address this need,” Schlossberg said.

Schlossberg has the support from school districts and hopes to introduce the draft of his bill in the next week to be able to bring it up for discussion when the House returns to Harrisburg this March.

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