As the California State Legislature continues to make its way into the new legislative session, the State Senate unanimously passed two policy bills which I authored earlier this week. The first would launch a pilot program to enable school districts to better provide mental health services, and another to establish a civic learning program for state employees.
Senate Bill 596 would establish a pilot program at four school districts allowing them to establish an intensive preventative mental health plan. By utilizing school and community resources, these districts will seek to identify and treat mental health concerns early so as to prevent students from falling behind.
According to California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth, twenty one percent of children and teens between the ages of nine and seventeen have diagnosable or addictive disorders, yet only one out of five children identified with such disorders receive treatment. Half of students age fourteen and older living with mental illnesses ends up dropping out of school.
I have been working with Ken Berrick, the Chief Executive Officer of the Seneca Family of Agencies in pushing this bill forward. We both agree that this bill provide schools with powerful tools that can change the trajectories of children’s lives. This bill will ensure schools are well equipped with these tools and provide families with access to such resources.
A second bill that was voted upon was Senate Bill 619 which would require the State Department of Education to develop and make available online a civics orientation for state employees. The orientation program would provide a basic understanding of the responsibilities and operation of the three branches of government and the importance of civic engagement, improving their ability to serve the public.
These two bills will improve the lives of Californians in terms of how we understand the function of our government and how we provide mental health services to our children. There is no better group of individuals to understand and defend the rights and obligations afforded by our constitutions than state employees, and Senate Bill 619 will help them to do so. Senate Bill 596 will help schools identify their student’s mental health needs early on so they can avoid potential pitfalls and reach their full academic potential. As a child psychologist, I became well aware that many children have mental health needs that go unmet and undiagnosed for years, and this is a step towards addressing them early in a student’s educational career.
There is another bill that will be up for consideration in the coming days. That is Senate Bill 240 which will regulate county elections officials’ use of vote by mail ballot drop boxes, to ensure security and a chain of possession for vote by mail ballots returned into these boxes.
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Days after seeing Poe jump to second to Vice President Jejomar Binay in the latest Pulse Asia survey of potential presidential candidates, her godfather, Manila Mayor and former President Joseph Estrada told Inquirer columnist Neal H. Cruz that Estrada will support Poe if she finally decides to vie for the presidency.
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