State health leaders take next steps for students’ mental health

Michigan State Department hold press conference
Michigan State Department hold press conference(WLUC)
Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 5:43 PM EDT
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SAGINAW, Mich. (WLUC) - Michigan health and education leaders met on Wednesday to focus on the next steps for improving students’ mental health.

Discussions about the importance of students’ mental health were at the forefront Wednesday morning at Saginaw Intermediate School District. The Department of Health and Human Services invited students and families to a roundtable discussion about their experiences. The director of the department, Elizabeth Hertel said access to mental health services is a top priority.

“I believe that every person should have access to behavioral health services, including mental health care where and when they need it. That is especially true of our kids,” Hertel said.

During a press conference, students and family members talked about why the focus on mental health is so important. Hemlock High School senior Luke Premo brought up just one way the state can help students.

“To combat the mental health crisis our team has developed a proposal, we want to increase funding so schools have the resources they need to handle mental health issues proactively,” Premo said. “Introduce mental health first aid and other essential training so school staff has a better position to handle unexpected events.”

Premo said there is more to be done but he says funding is one of the most effective ways to kickstart more programs. Despite the call for more spending, the State Superintendent, Dr. Michael Rice said Michigan has come a long way in a short amount of time.

“We’ve gone from no funding in the State School Aid Act for Children’s Mental Health four summers ago to funding a number of initiatives for school-based services in additional mental health supports,” Rice said.

Rice said the money has allowed 600 social workers, counselors psychologists and more positions to be hired over the past year. Rice said that funding started at $30 million dollars in 2018 and has increased 12-fold in the past four years. He said the state now has better opportunities to assist students in the classroom.

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