|Posted:||May 6, 2016 01:00 PM|
|From:||Representative Dan L. Miller and Rep. Judy Ward|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Brain Health/Mental Health Check-up|
|In the near future, we plan to introduce legislation which would require a brain health/mental health check-up, which at a minimum shall include a depression screening, for each student in the Commonwealth no later than age 14.
Currently in Pennsylvania, students are required to undergo a variety of health examinations while attending school. This includes medical and dental exams, vision and hearing screening, scoliosis screening, and a series of immunizations to name a few. While these tests are undoubtedly important, the mental health (or brain health) of our children is of equal, if not greater, importance.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20% of youth ages 13 through 18 live with a brain health condition that can drastically affect their emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Lack of proper diagnosis and treatment can result in serious risk-taking behaviors such as dropping out of school, substance abuse or self-medication, harm to oneself, or in very rare cases, harm to others. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for youth ages 12-18, while half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. We know that 80-90% of adolescents who are diagnosed for depression are treated successfully, but again, most are being missed.
To respect parental rights, our bill allows parents to choose who conducts the screen and also allows them to opt their child out of this requirement if they so choose (although that is not our hope). The cost of the depression screens will not be passed onto our school districts as the Affordable Care Act has mandated that all insurance policies must cover them (this includes the CHIP program). We also allow school districts and the state to increase testing or frequency requirements as long as they are universally applied and done so in conjunction with existing privacy protections. Additionally, our bill does not mandate that school districts themselves perform any of the screens nor that they receive the results of the screen- only that they receive confirmation that one has occurred. No record of the screen shall be permitted to be part of a student’s academic record.
We see depression screens as a needed corollary to Act 71, Student Assistance Programs, and our united effort to end stigma, protect lives, and ensure that all of our citizens have a chance to reach their fullest potential. Please join us in promoting early identification, diagnosis, and treatment of brain health conditions and improving the overall health and safety of the Commonwealth by co-sponsoring this important initiative.
Introduced as HB2057