Bill Tackles Mental Health in Delaware Elementary Schools



DELAWARE – “You’d be very surprised to learn that even some of our youngest children suffer from anxiety and depression and the way that it manifest is different for each child,” said Delaware State Education Association’s Kristin Dwyer.

Yes. Children go through it too and legislators in the Delaware General Assembly plan to tackle the issue of mental health in the education system. House Bill 100 would establish a mental health services unit in state elementary schools. “The intent of this bill is to make sure that there’s a ton of professionals within the elementary levels throughout the state of Delaware,” said Representative Bryan Shupe.

Lawmakers say identifying these problems early on helps prevent more harm from happening in the future. “A lot of those resources are in the middle school and high school ages and what has happened is when that trauma happens at a really early age, these children haven’t had professional help and start to build unhealthy foundations on how to deal with these things in their lives,” said Rep. Shupe.

Those with the state education association agree.  They say right now teachers are like a one stop shop. “What they’re seeing in their students, even at the littlest level, is a need for professionals in the school building to meets students where they are to help them with certain behaviors they may be expressing,”  said Dwyer.

Dwyer also says teachers just don’t have the background to deal with tougher mental health issues.  “Teachers know how to teach. Teachers are very caring individuals. But they do not have the education, certification, or licenses that’s the positions outlined in HB100 have.”These folks are trained to be in the school building, to deliver developmentally appropriate assistance by way of mental health therapy without being clinical,” said Dwyer.

The state education association also says that this bill has more sponsors on it than any other bill in the general assembly, showing just how serious lawmakers are about tackling this issue.
“And that’s significant. That should send a message to the community, which we already know is supportive, and to the folks in the governors office,” said Dwyer.
Now just to put into prospective just how unstaffed these schools are, the state education association tells us there’s typically only one mental health professional per five hundred students. The bill currently sits in the House Appropriations committee.
Categories: Delaware, Health, Local News