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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 19, 2018 05:11 PM
From: Representative Dan L. Miller and Rep. Jason Ortitay
To: All House members
Subject: Early Intervention Depression Screens
In the near future, we plan to re-introduce legislation that would alter student physical forms to require pediatricians to ask if kids in the sixth grade and above should receive a depression screen as part of their routine, required health screening.

Currently, Pennsylvania students are required to undergo a variety of health examinations while attending school. These include medical and dental exams, vision and hearing screening, scoliosis screening, and a series of immunizations to name a few. While these requirements are undoubtedly important, the mental health of our children is of equal, if not greater, importance.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 50% of mental health issues can be diagnosed by age 14, and the lack of proper diagnosis and treatment can result in serious risk taking behaviors such as truancy, substance abuse, harm to oneself, or, in very rare cases, harm to others. We know that 80-90% of adolescents who are diagnosed with depression are treated successfully, but most are being missed. Our bill attempts to modernize our early intervention in mental health by requiring pediatricians to discuss depression screens with family’s during key routine exams - a step forward towards the recent call by the American Academy of Pediatrics that such screens occur annually.

This bill does not require every student to have a depression screen; it requires that every parent is asked if their child should have one. The family unit remains the decision maker, and they decide whether to act on medical recommendations - like they do in any other circumstance. No information is shared with the schools unless it comes from the family.

Depression screens are 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. A similar bill authored by Sen. Reschenthaler (R-Allegheny) passed the Senate last session unanimously. Please join us in supporting this important initiative.