This week, the Joint Committee on Finance unanimously approved a bill I authored with Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke of Kaukauna to help make sure kids get the mental health care they need.
Assembly Bill 644 will allow the Medical College of Wisconsin to create a school-based mental health consultation pilot program. The pilot would be run by the Medical College of Wisconsin and funded with $175,000 annually from the Department of Health Services. School personnel will be educated on how to manage mental health concerns in the classroom, where to refer complex cases, and will also receive educational training seminars.
According to a 2018 report from the Office of Children's Mental Health, 24% of Wisconsin teens have been diagnosed with a mental illness. The same report shows our state is lacking in providing access to the care they need. This bill will help connect school-aged children with mental health professionals.
The committee also approved a bill I authored with Representative Mary Felzkowski of Irma that will allow school districts to engage in "whole grade sharing." Some school districts find they don't have enough students to fill a class for a grade level. Our bill will encourage different districts to swap grade levels when needed by creating a financial incentive of $150 per student.
I hope that school districts in both rural and urban areas can benefit from this change and make sure more money goes directly to teaching children.