Mental Health Education Bill Passed by NYS Legislature

We at MHANYS are excited to report the legislative passage of a mental
health education bill that recognizes that when you teach about health in
middle schools and high schools, mental health has to be part of that
discussion. No longer can a child go from elementary school to senior year
of high school and not hear words like depression, anxiety and suicide
prevention even though they dramatically impact our youth.

Some schools across New York State have done a great job about teaching
about mental health while other schools have virtually ignored the topic.
This bill will help insure that students in middle and high schools have
the necessary tools and resources that will provide a greater and more
comprehensive understanding about mental health.

Look at the numbers:

· Average age of onset of a mental illness is age 14, average age
of seeking services is 24. That is an incredible ten year gap between onset
and support. Mental Health Education in schools will dramatically close
that gap and help reduce the stigma of mental illness. Nothing challenges
stereotypes more than education.

· 1 out of every 12 high school students attempt suicide. That is
an incredible 8 percent of high school students. Mental Health Education
will help provider greater understanding and will make it easier to seek
help and support.

· 60 percent of all high school students with mental illness don’t
graduate with a high school diploma and are much more likely to be
unemployed and incarcerated. With mental health education in schools, there
will greater emphasis and resources in helping to keep students with mental
health needs in schools.

With the passage of Mental Health Education in Schools, last year’s passage
of the Mental Health Tax Check Off Bill and increasing resources for
Mental Health First Aid , there is a growing recognition from our
Legislative leaders and Governor Cuomo about the importance of prevention
and education regarding mental health.

We want to thank the Education Chairs in the Senate and Assembly for their
leadership—Senator Marcellino and Assemblymember Nolan. The bills passed
virtually unanimously in both houses because of their support. We also
want to thank all the co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. Also, thanks
to Devra Nussbaum of Assemblymember Nolan’s staff who has been a wonderful
resource and supporter. This bill has been around for several years and
former Senator Roy McDonald was an early champion and we were very
appreciative of his efforts in moving the bill forward.

From a community perspective, this bill would never have come to fruition
without the leadership of MHANYS Board Member Sylvia Lask, who through her
knowledge, political acumen and networking played a leading role in support
of this bill. She is truly an incredible and tireless advocate for this
bill and for mental health care in New York State. I also want to
acknowledge MHANYS terrific Public Policy Director, John Richter. John has
been dedicated to this issue for several years and it has become intensely
personal for him. His tireless efforts, dedication and intelligence played
a major role in this bill’s passage.

I want to thank Kevin Cleary Government Relations for their great work.
Kevin has worked with MHANYS for the last few years and it is no
coincidence that the Mental Health Tax Check Off and Mental Health
Education bills have passed during this time. Kevin is a true insider with
great knowledge and insight. He also deserves a great deal of credit for
getting this bill passed.

Finally and most importantly, this bill came about because of MHA members
and all our colleagues in the community. Throughout this campaign, we had
incredibly dedicated people reaching out to legislators and their staffs
about mental health education in schools. It also manifested itself with
the thousands upon thousands of people who called in during our call to
action day. Our message was heard loud and clear.

We will continue to work with all of you to ensure that prevention,
education and anti-stigma efforts will be an integral part of the future of
health care in New York.

But our work is not complete. We will need the same level of advocacy when
this bill comes before the Governor. We don’t know time frames but as soon
as we do, we will need you all too again kick into action. We will continue
to show the leadership of New York State that the mental health community
is strong and vocal.

We will also look to the future as we already have a strong bill next year
in regard to mental health education in schools. Senator Hamilton and
Assemblymember Crespo have a bill that will provide mandatory mental health
education for teachers before they are certified to teach. This momentum
for change must continue.

Glenn Liebman, CEO
Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc.
gliebman@mhanys.org

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