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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

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RELEASE: House Education Committees Examine Mental Health Barriers in the Classroom

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

ST. PAUL, MN – Two House Education Committees held a joint hearing today to learn about the status of mental health services available to Minnesota students. Student support personnel, licensed mental health professionals, educators and advocates spoke about the mental health challenges students encounter inside and outside of the classroom.

"As I talk to educators around the state, student mental health concerns are on the top of everyone's list of barriers to success and well-being,” said Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis), Chair of the K-12 Education Finance Division. “Our responsibility as legislators and adults should be to break down barriers so students and families can thrive. Today’s hearing allows us to hear directly from a broad group of stakeholders with insights into challenges and potential solutions.”

Sue Abderholden, Executive Director of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) highlighted the urgency of addressing the mental health crisis among youth in schools due to a spike in suicide rates. Additional investments in student-linked mental health grants could contribute to lowering these statistics.

The Minnesota School Counselors Association delivered testimony which shows Minnesota’s student-to-counselor ratio is 723:1, the fourth-worst in the country. The national average is 482:1. A report from the American School Counselor Association with 10 year trends for all states can be found here.

Providing a world-class education for all students is a top priority for DFL legislators, as stated in the ‘Minnesota Values Agenda’ which was unveiled the first week of the 2019 session. Ensuring students have access the mental health resources they need to be successful is crucial to achieving this goal. One legislative measure that has been proposed would deliver robust statewide investments in school-linked mental health grants; $8.5 million a year versus the current $1.5 million in funding per year.

Over the course of the session, both education committees will be working on solutions to combat mental health struggles among Minnesota students.

"My hope is that today's hearing gave legislators a better sense of the barriers some of our students are facing when they are in our classrooms," explained Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins), Chair of the House Education Policy Committee. "This is just the beginning of an important discussion we will be having this session around student mental health."