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State Rep. Longhurst seeks to expand access to mental health services

Delaware Public Media

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) is introducing three new bills to expand access to mental health resources in schools and across the state.

Last year, Longhurst passed House Bill 100, which established mental health services in all Delaware elementary schools, meant to help prevent negative outcomes that result from underlying mental health conditions.

Now, Longhurst continues that effort with three new bills, two of which will bolster those new services — including hiring more mental health professionals in schools and establishing statewide mental health education curriculum standards.

“Just in the last two weeks we’ve had two children commit suicide in our state; and we have to address this,” she said. “It’s not something that we should put off, it’s something that we need to address and we need to do it now.”

Along with those school-related bills, Longhurst is also seeking to provide preventative mental health services to all Delawareans by mandating insurance cover an annual, pre-deductible wellness check with a mental health clinician possessing a masters degree.

Longhurst says this would essentially be like the physical many people get every year, but for mental wellbeing instead.

She adds follow up will be needed with universities to ensure there are enough mental health clinicians throughout the state to provide these kinds of checks.

“I’m going to be working with the higher education and the schools and the vo-tech schools to lay down a pipeline and more of a groundwork of putting people in those degrees and getting them interested in this,” Longhurst said.

The past few years have seen a shortage of healthcare professionals throughout the country, and Longhurst says getting more workers to provide these new services would be important.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

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.