INDIANAPOLIS — Students would get better access to mental health services under a bill approved Tuesday by a Senate committee.
Senate Bill 246, which was passed 8-0 by the Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee, requires schools to contract with a licensed community health provider that provides mental health services. That agreement must be on file with the state’s Department of Homeland Security before the school can apply for grants from Indiana’s Secured School Safety Grant Fund.
Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, told lawmakers many children are struggling with mental health issues.
“One in five adolescents experience a mental health problem during their school years,” Box said. “Nearly 60% of students who experience a mental health problem do not receive treatment due to stigma and the lack of access to resources.”
Indiana’s Director of Homeland Security Jonathan Whitham echoed the need to ensure children can get help when they need it.
“We need to ensure that each school has access to mental health services so kids have someone to turn to,” he said.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, R-Indianapolis, agenda for 2020 is to improve mental health issues and school safety.
Despite the unanimous vote to approve the bill, at least one lawmaker — Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Syracuse — raised concerns that some school districts may have trouble meeting the requirement.
“There will be some communities that won’t have this,” he said of mental health providers.
Still, it was backed by various education groups, including the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, the Indiana State Teachers Association and the state Department of Education. In addition, Gov. Eric Holcomb has made improving mental health services at schools part of his 2020 agenda.
“This bill is both impactful and influential,” said Robert Taylor, associate director of the superintendents association. “It establishes the beginning of relationships between our schools, both public and private, into a relationship that will benefit students and families in the state of Indiana.”
The bill now goes to the full Senate for debate.