by MCF Director of Public Policy Ann Geddes
The Children’s Behavioral Health Coalition, a group of 20 organizations, has established its advocacy platform for 2019, and its first priority is to request more funding from the Kirwan Commission for school-based behavioral health services.
Along with its general mandate to make policy recommendations to enable Maryland’s schools to perform at the level of the best-preforming school systems in the world, the Commission was given a specific charge in the Safe to Learn Act of 2018 to offer policies and cost proposals to fund school-based behavioral health services in Maryland schools. This directive is clearly aligned with the general goals of the Commission, because students who are struggling with behavioral health issues are not fully available for learning, and some may even be incapable of regularly attending school.
Accordingly, the Kirwan Commission made a number of specific recommendations regarding the mental health needs of students, including increased training for school personnel, the development of school behavioral health services in all jurisdictions, systematic screening and identification of students’ needs and a statewide system of accountability and outcome measurement. Unfortunately, the Commission devoted relatively little funding for these recommendations, allocating just $10.25 million annually (out of $3.8 billion). This is not nearly enough to sufficiently implement the recommendations, or to provide adequate support to students who are struggling in school owing to their behavioral health problems.
The Children’s Behavioral Health Coalition has written to the Kirwan Commission requesting that it re-examine its funding estimates for the mental health needs of students. MCF will report on any progress made in future newsletters.