Del. House passes two student mental health bills
DOVER, Del. – The Delaware House passed two bills on Tuesday aimed at improving the mental well-being of students in the First State.
House Bill 3 and House Bill 4, sponsored by House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, are part of the 2023 Delaware Behavioral Health Package. The measures encompass a holistic approach to improving the way mental health care is delivered and addressed for children in Delaware.
“Our kids are struggling with their mental health in ways many of us can’t even begin to understand, and if we don’t act quickly to address this crisis, the long-term consequences could be dire. We have taken an important step forward to deliver the compassionate, comprehensive mental health support our kids need and deserve, but we’re not stopping here. I’m grateful to my colleagues for recognizing the importance of these measures and I’m looking forward to advancing the remaining components of the 2023 Delaware Behavioral Health Package in the General Assembly,” said Rep. Longhurst.
Although data has shown a decline in student mental health in the years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that the pandemic created severe mental health challenges and stressors. Research shows that the impacts of stress and trauma can disrupt a student’s behavior, emotional well-being, academic success, and health. Additionally, suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 14 and 25 to 34.
House Bill 3 would help students prioritize their mental health by providing them with excused absences for mental or behavioral health reasons. To ensure that students struggling with their mental health get the help they need, this bill would require that any student taking more than two excused absences be referred to a school based mental or behavioral health specialist. House Bill 4 would ensure that students have access to behavioral health support in their schools in the aftermath of a school-connected traumatic event, such as the death of any student, educator, administrator, or building employee of a public school or other traumatic event that affects a significant portion of school’s students.
HB 4 is also known as Nolan’s Law, in honor of Wendy Eastbum-Teal’s son Nolan, who died by suicide last year.
HB 3 and HB 4 now go to the Senate for consideration.