Pa. attorney general calls for more mental health support in schools

Written by on April 7, 2022

Pa. attorney general calls for more mental health support in schools

By Julia Zenkevich / WESA
April 7, 2022

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro meets with students from North Hills High School to discuss mental health. (WESA photo)

PITTSBURGH – Pennsylvania’s Safe2Say Something program was intended to help prevent violence in schools, but many students have been using it to share mental health concerns.

At a roundtable with students at North Hills High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called for more money for mental health care in schools.

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According to a special report on student mental health from the Attorney General’s office, 72.9% of more than 80,000 Safe2Say Something tips involved bullying, suicide, self-harm, mental illness, discrimination and harassment.

When students returned to in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic, Shapiro said more of the tips were about mental health issues.

“We’re seeing more of an acute need today on mental health issues based on the tips of students, and something that we recognize must be addressed and must be addressed quickly,” he said.

Shapiro said Safe2Say Something has adapted to meet this growing need.

“The pivot then moved toward mental health and toward making sure that we both shared the information with the local school district . . . and now to use that data to not just address the student in need at that moment, but to try and address some of the broader policy issues and try to address some of the broader health care issues that need to be fixed,” he said.

Shapiro, a Democrat who is also running for governor, is proposing a line item in the state budget that would give schools money to hire mental health professionals.

The attorney general’s office has called for more counselors in schools since 2019.

Shapiro said lawmakers can’t leave students to deal with mental health struggles on their own.

“We’ve known that mental health, especially amongst our young people, is a crisis. It needs to be addressed. There’s a multitude of ways to do that, but I think it starts by making sure we’ve got mental health counselors in every single school,” he said.

There are currently three bills related to behavioral health assistance, education and instruction in schools in the state House’s Education Committee.

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