• Reed Perkins

Policy: K-12 Mental Health Coordinators

My time working as a public school teacher showed me what recent studies are confirming: our school age children are in the midst of a mental health crisis. New data released this month from the CDC show that the suicide rate among people aged 10-24 increased by 56% between 2007-2017. [1]

The Grand Forks school district in North Dakota suffered the tragedy of three suicides within a year and decided more needed to be done. [2] They created a new position of Mental Health Coordinator for the district. The position is responsible for overseeing mental health programs on a district wide level, ensuring open lines of communication between various important groups, and ensuring the mental health needs of students, families, and faculty are met. [3]

As students grow and change schools within a district it is important to ensure there aren't gaps in the system that a student might slip through. Having a district level coordinator ensures there is someone with a birds eye of view of things to help continuity of care, but also keeps things local enough that they know and are accountable to the community they're serving.

When it comes to a student's mental health, there are many who play a role: the student, teachers, family, school counselors, social workers, school psychologists, and both public and private community mental health professionals. Having one person to go to as a center of communication between these disparate individuals can smooth communications enormously.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's a saying that's especially applicable in healthcare. There is no cure-all when it comes to mental health, but by ensuring our students are well taken care of we can start healthy habits early.

Minnesota does an excellent job recognizing the necessity of increasing our mental health funds. The legislature recently added money to the Department of Agriculture's budget to setup a crisis hotline and hire another mental health adviser. [4] Along the same line, we need to help the Department of Education fund district level mental health coordinators.

[1] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/youth-suicide-rates-are-on-the-rise-in-the-u-s

[2] https://www.valleynewslive.com/content/news/High-school-counselor-shares--421404874.html

[3] https://www.grandforksherald.com/news/education/1350581-Grand-Forks-School-Districts-new-mental-health-coordinator-to-take-comprehensive-approach-to-students-emotional-well-being

[4] https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2019/10/04/agriculture-dept-aims-to-bolster-suicide-prevention-among-farm-workers/

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I'm running for State Senate in Minnesota's 1st district because your voice deserves to be heard.

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