State Senate passes bill to add mental health education to Oklahoma schools

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Senate passed a bill to get mental health education into schools to help students better understand how mental health impacts their overall well-being.

House Bill 1568 was written by Rep. Jeff Boatman, R-Tulsa, and Sen. John Haste, R-Broken Arrow.

The Senate unanimously passed the bill on Tuesday, according to a State Senate news release.

“We know childhood trauma and other issues, including the emotional and psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, can affect children and teens physically and mentally, and without help, it can adversely impact the rest of their lives,” Haste said.  “This bill is an effort to raise awareness and help reduce the stigma of mental health care. I really appreciated working with Representative Boatman on this important issue and thank all our members for their support.”

If the bill is passed, the State Board of Education would require, starting in the 2022-23 school year, that all schools include mental health instruction as part of any health education curriculum, emphasizing the interrelation of physical and mental well-being, according to the news release.

The bill also requires the Board to consult with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to revise the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Health and Physical Education to include a mental health focus and create a list of age-appropriate resources for K-12 students, the news release states.

School districts can go into agreements with nonprofits or other community partners to help with providing mental health education if the Department of Education and the Department of Mental Health approves those entities or partners.

“The stigma surrounding mental health unfortunately delays or prevents people from pursuing treatment. It is my sincerest hope that House Bill 1568 will help educate our young students on how mental health issues impact their overall well-being and encourage them to seek treatment when necessary,” Boatman said. “I’d like to thank Senator Haste for his diligent work to pass the bill through the Senate. He is a great partner and a champion of mental health in our state, and it’s been an honor to work on this legislation with him.”

The bill now heads back to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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