We, as a society, are long overdue to have serious conversations and make aggressive commitments to addressing mental health issues impacting our country. It is unfortunate that only in the wake of tragic events such as the shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas that mental health receives the attention it deserves. And even then, the conversation primarily consists of false promises that never come into action.
President Trump has attempted to link mass shootings to mental health issues, yet he has simultaneously proposed budgets that would strip hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid, the country's largest payer of behavioral health services.
Medicaid is also the core program that provides access to health care and home and community-based services for people with disabilities. The administration’s proposed 2020 budget would impose deep cuts to a wide variety of critical education, employment, and aging programs that affect people who are disabled such as the Traumatic Brain Injury program, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.
It is time that mental health and disabilities get the attention they deserve – and that starts in the classrooms. Schools provide a unique opportunity to identify and address health conditions by serving students where they already are. As a result of unfamiliarity and lack of knowledge, students with disabilities and mental illnesses experience social isolation and stigma. With inclusive education and awareness, we can bridge learning barriers and achievement gaps.
Schools that already have disability and mental health curriculum in place see an increase in grades, attendance, student self-esteem, and parent and teacher knowledge. That is why I have introduced Senate Bill 571, which would require mental health, physical disabilities, and developmental disabilities to be taught in schools.
Many mental health conditions first develop in adolescence. If we don’t teach our children how to recognize mental health conditions, we aren’t doing our job of preparing them for the future.
I hope that you enjoy this month’s issue of The Blueprint. Please contact me if you have any questions and let us know via email at D17.Constituent@pasenate.com if there is a subject you would like us to cover in an upcoming Blueprint.