McNamara bills address mental health challenges in education because of COVID pandemic

 

STATE HOUSE — As schools begin to feel the mental health repercussions of COVID-19, Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) has introduced two bills that focus on the unique educational challenges that the pandemic has generated.

The first bill (2022-H 6648) would direct that services provided by school social workers and certified school psychologists would be included as health care-related services eligible for federal Medicaid reimbursement.

“This issue is one of great importance since the pandemic has put tremendous pressure on families — particularly children,” said Representative McNamara, who chairs the House Education Committee. “Any help our communities can get in ensuring the presence of these mental health professionals and the essential services they provide would be a tremendous benefit to the families of Rhode Island.”

The bill is identical to legislation that Representative McNamara introduced last session, which passed the House but failed to move through the Senate before that chamber adjourned.

An estimated 13.7 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression or behavioral health disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, behavioral health disorders can prevent children from developing coping and resiliency skills — abilities they need to help them learn, behave or handle their emotions. These skills are essential to healthy social development and help ensure children have a positive quality of life now and into adulthood. 

Studies have shown children spend approximately 49 percent of their days in a school setting and are six times more likely to get evidence-based treatment when offered in schools than in other community settings. By linking programs and supports that foster a comprehensive school mental health system, states can not only reduce the number of children experiencing anxiety, depression and behavioral health disorders, but also save a considerable amount in economic costs.

The second bill (2022-H 7062) would provide that in developing alternative-learning plans, consideration would be given to the unique difficulties and interruptions that many students are experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alternative learning plans include extended learning opportunities as independent study, private instruction, performing groups, internships, community service, apprenticeships, and online courses that are currently funded and available to the school department and the community

“COVID-19 significantly changed in-person learning and access to school-based services, which had a profound effect on the psychological well-being of our children,” said Representative McNamara. “This legislation would allow alternatives that may not be preferable under ordinary circumstances, such as extended breaks in study.”

This act would also authorize the granting of an extended absences from school which is not intended to be permanent, but is permitted because of the pandemic’s unique difficulties and interruptions.

Both bills have been referred to the House Education Committee.

 

The Defense Production Act is being invoked to increase baby formula production in the U.S. President Biden announced the action a short time ago, which will also include the launch of Operation Fly Formula to use federal planes to import formula from other countries. The act will allow the federal government to make key formula ingredients priority and give manufacturers additional resources.        Today marks the Dow Jones Industrial Average's worst loss since 2020 after loosing eleven hundred points. No Dow component finished higher on the session. The sell-off extended to the rest of the market as yesterday's buying spree was short-lived.        President Biden is planning to meet with the leaders of Finland and Sweden tomorrow, shortly after both nations formally applied for NATO membership. Biden strongly supports the bids. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called the presidential meeting historic.        The White House is being pressed on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's warning that more interest rate hikes may be necessary until inflation is curbed. During a briefing, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre [[ kar-EENE jhan pea AIR ]] noted that the Fed is an independent entity. Powell's warning prompted stocks to tumble. Jean-Pierre said the Biden White House does not track or comment on the ups-and-downs of the stock market.        An ex-Minneapolis police officer is pleading guilty to charges of aiding and abetting manslaughter in the murder of George Floyd. Thomas Lane entered the plea this morning and will avoid a second trial next month in Hennepin County Court. The state plea agreement calls for the defendant to serve a sentence of three years concurrently with his federal sentence for violating Floyd's civil rights.        Visitors of an annual corn maze in Illinois won't be walking through a field of corn stalks this fall. The Great Godfrey Corn Maze will be cut into a field of Sunn hemp. The village's board approve the change after last year's corn crop did not grow tall enough to be able to put on the popular annual fall event outside St. Louis.