Schools could get mental health professionals in effort to prevent tragedy

03/13/2018 03:08 PM

FRANKFORT – Legislation which would require each public school in the state to employ at least one mental health professional for every 1,500 students, was unanimously passed by the House Standing Committee on Appropriations and Revenue on Tuesday.

House Bill 604, sponsored by Rep. Will Coursey, D-Symsonia, is a response to the January 23 Marshall County High School shooting tragedy which left two students dead and 14 wounded.

Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars recalled the tragic day and why the bill could help in keeping a tragedy like that from happening in the future.

“If we could go back and have some kind of prevention in place, and that’s what this bill would do, would it percent it 100 percent, no, but at least if we have some mental health professionals in the school systems, it would definitely an advantage maybe to forsee something like that coming on,” Byars said.

In addition, the bill would require require the Department of Education to make available a toolkit to assist school districts in developing a trauma-informed approach in their schools; define “mental health professional” and “trauma-informed approach”; and require each local board of education to develop a plan for implementing a trauma-informed approach in its schools by the 2020-2021 school year.

Kentucky Psychological Association President Dr. Lisa Wilner told committee members that one thing the bill would do is have every student at the school to have contact and interaction with a mental health professional.

“What this trauma-informed approach would do, one of the goals would be for every child to have a sense of belonging, for every child to have a trusted adult that they could go to,” Wilner said. “In 80 percent of these instances where these horrible tragedies have occurred, someone has known that there was a plan.”

The bill will move to the full House for consideration.

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