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Mental health advocates discuss future of student support systems

Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long

Delaware education and mental health advocates gathered to discuss expanding access to mental health services for students in the First State.


Improving the mental wellbeing of students has been a focus for Delaware educators and lawmakers after the pandemic highlighted the need that already existed.


Lt Governor Bethany Hall-Long was joined by Delaware advocates and Patrick and Amy Kennedy, founders of the Kennedy Forum which advocates for greater access to mental health services.


Patrick Kennedy, a former Rhode Island Congressman, says the country is facing this mental health crisis in part because many lawmakers never get lobbied or learn anything about these issues.


“I guarantee 90 percent of my colleagues do not appreciate this whole discussion — how significant social and emotional learning is to learning and that you can’t have numeracy and literacy if you don’t first have kids who are able to absorb that information,” Kennedy said.


Amy Kennedy previously taught middle school history in New Jersey and says that’s where she learned most teachers get almost no guidance on how to help children struggling with trauma and other behavioral health concerns.


“This is something that burden’s the teachers as well, it leads to burnout — when you feel like you just can’t make the kind of difference that you really need,” she said.


Advocates gathered at William Penn High School in the Colonial school district, which offers greater access to mental health services than other school districts in the state and across the country.


But lawmakers at the round table say that’s not the norm statewide, which is why funding mental health services in schools, such as through HB 100 is so important — to bring the same services Colonial offers to other school districts.


Hall-Long says Colonial can be a great model for other districts looking to better support students, parents and teachers.


Kennedy adds her forum expects to release a report card ranking states by their level of mental health services for students later this month.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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