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Illinois legislators approve plan to assess mental health screenings in public schools

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(The Center Square) – Illinois public schools are one step closer to universal mental health screenings for students.

The Illinois House passed Senate Bill 726 which directs the Illinois State Board of Education to assess school districts’ readiness for universal mental health screening of students. The measure passed the Senate unanimously earlier this month.

“We are in a children’s mental health crisis,” said state Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, D-Chicago, the bill’s House sponsor. “I, others in this chamber and the executive branch leaders believe that we have to be thoughtful and systematic in our work to build up the system.”

If signed into law, ISBE will have until April of next year to report back to the governor and the General Assembly the results of the assessment.

State Rep. Adam Niemerg, R-Dieterich, said school districts should retain local control and be able to decline the screenings.

“There’s no opt-outs for school districts. The parents, such as myself or other members, are not given access to those questions or know exactly what those questions are or what is going to be asked of their children,” said Niemerg.

The legislation also provides that the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services shall implement guidance to managed care organizations and similar care coordination entities contracted with the department, so that the managed care organizations and care coordination entities respond to lead indicators with services and interventions that are designed to help stabilize the child.

State Rep. Tom Weber, R-Fox Lake, said parental rights are being ignored in the legislation.

“We can talk about spending all these millions of dollars but what should be in the bill, that No. 1, parents are notified, parents are engaged and parents will be the first ones to know what kind of results, if any, come out of any type of universal health screening done to a child at school,” said Weber.