Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director, Kentucky Youth Advocates
LOUISVILLE, KY – Today, we are celebrating the unanimous passage of Senate Bill 102 by the House Education Committee to help ensure there is an adequate number of mental health providers in schools to serve students in need of supports. We thank Senator Max Wise for championing this measure and the Committee for ensuring its passage today.
During this time of heightened social and emotional needs, schools and other entities interacting with children must continue to elevate efforts to identify signs of stress, anxiety, and depression. Especially as over one in five Kentucky children have experienced at least two Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which can result in toxic stress and cause harm to a child’s developing brain. Research shows that when caring adults provide physically and emotionally safe environments for children and teach them how to be resilient—to solve problems, build nurturing relationships, and manage their emotions—the long- and short-term negative effects of ACEs can be reduced.
That is why, as state budget deliberations continue, lawmakers must boost Kentucky’s funding allocation to attract qualified mental health practitioners in a sustainable, equitable manner to provide the critical behavioral health services needed and to ensure the good intentions of SB 102 can have the most impact for students.
As importantly, looking ahead to the Senate Education Committee’s upcoming consideration of House Bill 63, Kentucky must also allow school districts to follow the research on preventing gun violence and do what they deem best for their students. That could mean strengthening the evidence-based, comprehensive approach within the School Safety and Resiliency Act to conduct a threat assessment team within schools rather than hiring a School Resource Officer, which is unproven to protect against gun violence in schools. These multidisciplinary teams – a best practice backed by the Secret Service – can include mental health professionals, teachers, administrators, and local law enforcement that focus on preventing violence from occurring rather than simply responding to it. This proactive, problem-solving approach identifies concerning behaviors before violence occurs and connects students with interventions and support.
We cannot underestimate the profound impact that strong mental and behavioral health supports within schools and connections of students with caring adults, coupled with these evidence-based threat assessment teams, can have on Kentucky’s young people and their futures. Yet, HB 63’s efforts to require the assignment of an SRO to every public school not only fails to follow what prevention experts recommend but will also undermine research-backed prevention-focused practices that avoid disparities by race or disability status. All Kentucky children deserve a safe, supportive – trauma-informed – environment in which to learn.
Stay up-to-date on Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priorities and other bills that are good for kids on our Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker.
About Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at www.kyyouth.org.