This is a great article from the Long Island Herald about how several
school districts on Long Island are preparing to implement the new mental
health education in schools law. One very important resource available to
all school districts, families, students and the community is the website
dedicated to mental health education in schools through MHANYS. You can
log on to www.mentalhealthednys.org
Mental health teaching is now required in schools
Posted August 8, 2018
By Eden Laikin
The Wantagh, Seaford and Levittown public school districts will be among
those tasked this fall with incorporating age-appropriate mental health
education into the curriculum for all grades.
An amendment to the state education law, which took effect July 1, requires
schools throughout New York state to teach mental health to students in
elementary, middle and high school — including helping them to understand
emotional and mental wellness, and when to seek help for themselves or
Mental health experts say that unrecognized, untreated and late-treated
mental illnesses elevate the risk of crises such as suicide and
self-injury, diminish prospects for recovery, and contribute to substance
abuse and other damaging negative coping behaviors.
Dr. Marc Ferris, assistant superintendent for instruction in Wantagh, said
his district has been reviewing and developing new curricula related to
mental health and student wellness for all students in kindergarten to 12th
grade for the past year.
“In addition, the Wantagh Board of Education approved hiring a K-5 guidance
counselor to deliver curriculum and support for our elementary students and
a new part-time social worker to support our secondary schools,” Ferris
said. “Finally, Phase One of our five-year plan addresses the
social-emotional needs of our students as well as ensuring that we are
compliant with all upcoming New York state regulations.”
The Levittown School District’s assistant superintendent for instruction,
Todd Winch, said the current curriculum there already incorporates many of
the components of the recently released mental health requirements.
“In order to ensure we provide the best possible education for our
students, we are working with a curriculum committee made up of teachers
and administrators to make any necessary enhancements to our program for
this upcoming school year,” Winch said. “This fall, our support staff will
be meeting with representatives from [local child and adolescent mental
health programs] to further expand our relationship in order to better meet
the needs of our students.”
Dr. Adele Pecora, the Seaford Public Schools superintendent, said her
district is aware of the new law. “Mental health education is an important
topic,” she said, “and our curriculum and staffing will adequately support
The amendment does not specify curriculum content. Rather, the State
Education Department put out a “Framework for Mental Health Instruction” on
the day the law took effect, providing guidance for developing effective
mental health education instruction in the classroom, and looking at how to
embed mental health and well-being within the school’s environment more
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, half of all chronic
mental illnesses begin by age 14. Teaching young people about mental health
is a means of early intervention and prevention, which holds the best
prospect for effective treatment and recovery.
Schools are encouraged to use community partners to educate students, and
build collaborative relationships that can connect students and families
with community resources for treatment and support.
Merrick School District Superintendent Dominick Palma chairs a committee on
Mental Health and Substance Abuse for the Nassau County Council of School
Superintendents. The group has started meeting with stakeholders to explore
His district’s social-emotional learning curriculum, he said, is already
meeting most of the mental health standards — except for how to seek help.
Lakeside School in Merrick began using Lions Quest, a social-emotional
learning curriculum, about four years ago. The district’s other two
schools’ staff received training two years ago and fully implemented the
program last school year.
Palma said an initial review suggests that the curriculum addresses most of
the education department’s framework.
“If children’s mental health needs are not addressed, we can’t expect them
to learn well,” he said. “When they go beyond school, we want them to have
in place what they’ll need in the real world. These new regulations are
going to wake people up to say, ‘Let’s refresh what we’re doing, bring it
uptodate, refresh our curriculum instruction.’”
Palma also said that the Nassau County Board of Cooperative Educational
Services was working to organize mental health-oriented training for school