House Bills aim to expand mental health resources in public schools

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House Bill aims to expand mental heath resources in public schools. (Source CBS 4 News)

One Texas State Representative is pushing for the expansion of mental health resources in public schools.

Representative James Talarico, (D-52) has one goal in mind with his ‘Whole Student Agenda’ – a package of 24 bills in total – and that’s making sure students learn about social and emotional health just like they would Texas History.

“Just the same way that we teach physical health, we all should be teaching social emotional health as well,” Talarico said. “I think all of us recognize there’s a lot more to educating our kids than just reading, writing, and arithmetic, we need to make sure that we’re taking into account every aspect of a child’s well being and not just academic performance.”

The bill includes adding more counselors to school staff, and the expansion of suicide prevention training.

A local therapist said students would benefit from the resources in the long run.

“I believe it’s important for us as adults to model that it’s okay to ask for help and to teach children at a young age that they can always go to a teacher, a school nurse, a counselor…,” said Dr. James Whittenberg, a licensed professional counselor based out of Brownsville.

The ‘Whole Student Agenda’ prioritizes not only academic success, but the emotional well-being of the child sitting behind the desk.

“In a time of guns in schools and killing in classrooms, I think we have a moral obligation to do a lot more to teach the whole child and the whole student and to ensure that every one of our students is safe and healthy and ready to thrive inside and outside of the classroom,” Talarico said.

If passed by the state legislature, a mental health class would be a required course, just like P.E. and math.

“Helping them to have that awareness of who to turn to when they’re feeling anxious or depressed and the first line of defense of course would be for them to talk to their school counselor who should have plenty of resources,” Whittenberg said.

One of the bills included in the package would add mental health services to certain grants schools can apply for.

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