By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell – Nov. 2021
It is time to get serious about mental health services for our students. Even for years before the pandemic, we saw a concerning rise in stress, anxiety, and depression among young people. COVID-19 only made things worse.
Last year, many Massachusetts emergency rooms saw 4 times more teens in need of mental health crisis support than usual. The state’s youth mental health helpline, operated by the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Program, has also seen utilization rise 34% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
This rapidly rising demand for youth mental health services has maxed out the capacity of our mental health care system. There simply aren’t enough providers to meet the demand. The result is exceedingly long wait times to get an appointment – often months. For students who need treatment and support, waiting months can have a detrimental impact on their well-being, education, and social development.
We urgently need to increase the stock of mental health providers serving youth in Massachusetts. One solution is a bill I filed titled “An Act expanding licensure opportunity for school counselors” (H.351).
This bill creates a more streamlined pathway for licensed school counselors to become licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), which are able to perform a broader scope of services in the community.
The intent of this legislation is not to ease the requirements for school counselors to become LMHCs – anyone becoming a LMHC will still need to meet all legal standards for licensure. Rather, the bill would prevent school counselors from duplicating education, training, and experience that they have already completed.
School counselors currently find it difficult to become LMHCs because they may need to repeat previous coursework or even leave their job to meet clinical experience requirements. Reducing these unnecessary barriers will make it easier for our already highly qualified school counselors to practice more broadly – so that we can leverage the full capabilities of our mental health workforce.
This bill has been endorsed by the Massachusetts School Mental Health Consortium (MASMHC), the Massachusetts Parent-Teacher Association, and the Massachusetts School Counselor Association’s Government Relations and Advocacy Committee. It received a public hearing this summer and is currently under review by the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure in the State Legislature. We must act quickly and use all tools available to meet the mental health needs of our students.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the State Legislature. She serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Advanced IT, the Internet and Cybersecurity and as Chair of the Special Joint Oversight Committee on the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home COVID-19 Outbreak. She can be reached at Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2380.