Governor Greg Abbott recently signed House Bill 18, a bill aiming to bring more attention to mental health in Texas schools.
The bill, filed by Amarillo Representative Four Price, will promote training and education on signs of mental health conditions and substance abuse, strategies for maintaining student-to-student positive relations, conflict resolution, and information about how grief and trauma affect student learning.
KAMR Local 4 News sat down with Rep. Price to explain what the bill will provide. “Not only will it create a framework within which there will be more resources devoted toward better education, better training, enhanced curriculum, better awareness at the teacher and educator level, but also the administrator level and district level,” Price said.
Rep. Price has been working on mental health matters for years, including his chairing the House Select Committee on Mental Health in 2016 and the House Committee on Public Health in 2017 and 2018.
“We really want to reduce the stigma associated with mental health,” Price explained. “All the research indicates that behavioral health issues, including substance abuse, is very manageable if diagnosed early, and most mental health issues manifest before the age of 14.”
While teachers will receive incentives to further their mental health aid training, some students will also see curriculum changes.
“If the district teaches physical health as a requirement for graduation for high school, we want that health course to have components on suicide prevention and substance abuse,” Price said. “We don’t want them to talk about just cardiovascular disease or diabetes which are important, but we also want them to include things like mental health.”
The legislation will also allow districts to employ or contract with one or more non-physician mental health professionals, which includes either a psychologist, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in psychiatric nursing, or a licensed social worker.