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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 7, 2018 12:50 PM
From: Senator Mike Regan and Sen. Judy Ward
To: All Senate members
Subject: Depression Screening for Students
As part of continuing efforts to address both school safety and the mental health of students, we intend to reintroduce Senate Bill 1181, legislation sponsored last session by Senator Reschenthaler requiring depression screenings for students across Pennsylvania. Senator Judy Ward was a co-prime sponsor of House Bill 2095, companion legislation, last session.

Currently, there are various mandatory health requirements for students in the Commonwealth, such as dental exams and vision and hearing screenings, but there is no required mental health examination. This legislation will ensure that each student receives a depression screening along with their required physical exams in sixth and eleventh grade.

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 with depression are treated successfully but most are being missed.

It is important to note, this bill allows parents to choose who conducts the screening and allows them to opt their child out of the requirement. Additionally, the bill does not mandate that school districts themselves perform any of the screenings, nor that they receive the results of the screening – only that they receive confirmation that one has occurred. Parents are given the option of providing screening results to the school, and the legislation outlines steps to be taken when shared results indicate thoughts or behaviors indicative of depression.

Improving the diagnosis and treatment of brain health conditions for students in Pennsylvania will advance the overall health, safety, and success of our children. We hope you will join us in sponsoring this important piece of legislation.

Introduced as SB199