GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – A new law could bring more mental health care to schools.

Now, marriage and family therapists can get a license through the state Department of Public Instruction so school districts can directly hire them. Before, they could only work in schools through a third party.

“Mental health needs of children continue to increase and we are seeing a lot more need just in general. Every level of support we can offer to students is needed,” Samaritan Counseling’s Wellness Screen Director Amy D’Addario said.

According to Samaritan, more than 65% of students reported struggling with depression or anxiety. Even more alarming, more than 22% of students said they thought about dying by suicide in a screening last year.

“I think people are surprised at just the sheer number of kids that are really struggling with some real mental health issues that are life threatening potentially,” D’Addario explained.

The American School Counselor Association recommends one counselor for every 250 students. Here in Wisconsin, the association says there’s one counselor for every 366 students.

Pretty alarming, but now the state is taking this creative step to help children get the care they deserve.

Samaritan Counseling’s wellness screen director told Action 2 News bringing more mental health care into schools supports families by eliminating some barriers, like money and transportation.

“We are making steps even if it’s one small enough step toward making sure kids have staff there to talk to, to be confident in, to start the process. I think that’s really uplifting,” D’Addario said. “Maybe this is something we can finally start to agree on is our kids are struggling and we have to find a way to give them what they need where they are right now.”

Still, she said tight budgets could put up more roadblocks to hiring therapists.

“I think there are just so many things since then and what we’re really seeing is school districts trying to manage those competing priorities. Simply having enough money to have teaching staff, having enough money for the technology we use and need, having enough money for mental health services…”

D’Addario said this is still just a start:

“We can’t stop doing what we’re doing now. I hope families and school districts and people in our community realize these numbers are here and it’s not decreasing unfortunately.”

My law these therapists cannot work as a school social worker or counselor, only as a trained mental health professional. This new type of license needs to be renewed every two years.

New law brings more mental health care to schools

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