MARSHALL (KMHL) – Removing barriers to improve access to mental health care services in Minnesota schools is an important issue to Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minnesota).
Smith was in Marshall on Thursday meeting with local school officials and health care professionals to learn about how the Marshall School District has gone about providing those services to its students and to see what challenges are still in the way.
Local officials said one of the main barriers to doing that is simply having enough mental health providers – to meet the need, especially in rural Minnesota.
“Based on this conversation and others I have had we’re going to continue to work on what we can do in terms of loan forgiveness,” said Smith. “It’s expensive to get these credentials and what we want to be able to do is encourage people to get into the field as soon as possible.”
One suggestion that was offered to the senator was forgiving student loans for providers who practice in rural Minnesota sooner. Currently there is a program in place, but providers have to be fully licensed, which takes a minimum of two years.
She also heard about the importance of recognition and how finding the students struggling early can make a big difference in the child’s education.
“The average young person in the United States doesn’t have their mental health issue diagnosed for 8-to-10 years. Think of the impact that has on their educational lives,” Smith said.
Her bill, The Mental Health Services for Students Act would provide $200 million in funding to local educational agencies, tribal schools and community-based organizations to build partnerships and help fund the initiatives.
The plan would help schools address the challenges by strengthening comprehensive, school-based mental health services, through the following steps:
-Build partnerships between schools and community-based organizations that can help students get mental health services in school:
-Train teachers, families and community members to recognize when a student is experiencing a mental health crisis, and make sure they get the help they need;
-Recognize best practices for delivery of mental health care in school-based settings and help formalize relationships between entities that support the mental and emotion health of children and adolescents in school settings.