Proposal would provide mental health first aid training in Nebraska schools

A bill aims to train educators on mental health first aid

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Mental health first aid is not a new concept.

In fact, one bill on it was heard for the third time by a Nebraska Legislature committee on Monday.

For the most part, everyone is supportive of getting more mental health services into schools, but not everyone agrees on how it should be implemented.

“People’s needs are only increasing when it comes to mental health, particularly with the lack of qualified folks that can work with people on mental health issues,” Sen. Adam Morfeld said. “So this would make it so that teachers and other folks that work closest with the students can identify those issues at an early stage and get people assistance that needs it.”

There is broad support for more mental health services in schools.

A bill introduced by Morfeld aims to provide training for all teachers and staff.

He hopes that this training will help identify mental health problems in children early on, so they can get the help they need. It would also give educators the knowledge on how to deescalate a situation when a child is in crisis.

Channel 8 spoke with someone who deals with mental health training in schools, who explained both sides to the bill.

“It’s a great bill in theory, and something similar needs to happen,” said Julia Hebenstreit, executive director of the Kim Foundation. “We certainly support this; we support Sen. Morfeld in this and youth mental health first aid for those that it works for. As a trainer, I see both the benefits, but also some barriers to the training.”

With teachers overloaded, and classes being canceled because there are not enough substitute teachers to cover, many feel that the training time is difficult to schedule.

“It’s still a huge barrier for school personnel depending on their role, to commit eight hours to train,” Hebenstreit said. “Even though it is fabulous content and very much needed.”

This was the third time this bill was heard in committee.

“There really wasn’t that much pushback, actually, against my bill,” Morfeld said. “It was just that it was part of the broader committee package, and so there were politics with that bill. There has been broad support for this; it’s just finding a way to get it across the finish line and act into law has been our challenge over the last three years.”

Funding would come from state lottery funds.

“This will be taking funding from some of those lottery funds, and then creating a sustainable funding stream, to be able to provide this training and this support,” Morfeld said.

The Kim Foundation holds a school mental health conference every year. It is completely voluntary and does have a small fee.

This year it is being held June 1 and 2 in La Vista, but it alternates between the east and west sides of the state each year. Registration opens this week.

It is an opportunity for educators to network and learn valuable mental health training.

Categories: Capitol News, Education News, Health, Nebraska News, News