Schools in Washington state would take a more active role in trying to prevent teen suicide under a bill that has passed the House and is now before the Senate.
Educators are not always trained how to address the emotional or behavioral issues they see in students that can be warning signs of suicide, according to the bill.
“There’s a gap in the system,” said Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, who introduced House Bill 1336 to address the problem. She knows the system well as a social worker with 20 years’ experience in community mental health.
Orwall said a gap is especially apparent between schools and mental health workers who deal with youths.
Her bill would encourage school districts to form partnerships with mental health services in their communities. Orwall’s hope is that schools and community agencies would be able to intervene early when students have emotional difficulties.
Currently, she said, mental health professionals are often brought into the picture only after a crisis.
The bill also requires school districts to develop procedures for communicating with parents when kids’ emotional and behavioral issues surface at school.
Orwall’s bill cleared the House last week, 90-8. It would require training in youth suicide screening and referral for counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses who work in schools. It would also require less extensive training for teachers.
The bill does not contain specific funding provisions.
“We are doing some upfront investments,” Orwall said, noting that state and regional education offices will incur one-time costs for developing model programs, identifying best practices and offering training to educators.
Those costs are estimated at $138,000 for one year.
Orwall said the intent of her bill is to combine this training with child-abuse and substance-abuse training, which is already required for teachers.
She said school nurses, counselors and psychologists pay for their own training when they apply for initial or renewed certification. The estimated cost for this new training would be $250 per person.Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635