Gov. Phil Murphy Unveils Mental Health Initiatives for New Jersey Schools

New Jersey announced new initiatives to help schools and colleges in the state to support youth mental health.

The programs will see the state’s Department of Human Services work in partnership with the National Council of Behavioral Health to conduct statewide Mental Health First Aid training for school personnel from K-12 and higher education institutions.

Additionally, New Jersey’s Department of Education will lead a statewide youth mental health working group to develop resources, including best practices for school and mental health provider connections to support student needs.

The $6 million cost for the initiatives is being drawn from $100 million in opioid funding through the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.

Recognizing Signs, Symptoms

In making the announcement, Gov. Phil Murphy stated that we as a society are too often unfamiliar with the signs and symptoms of mental illness.

“With improved training for school and higher education personnel and better opportunities for school and provider connections, we can better address and support the mental health needs of our young people,” said Murphy. “We are committed to ensuring that our residents have access to the resources they need.” 

The new initiatives are an attempt to reach those in school looking for help or do not know where to get help. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds, and more than one in four students report feeling persistently sad or hopeless.

“Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and 75% by age 24,” said Carolyn Beauchamp, President and CEO of the Mental Health Association in New Jersey. “For kids to stay on track they need prevention, early intervention, integrated care and treatment, all leading to recovery. Education professionals are well-positioned to recognize warning signs, step in before stage 4 and avert crises.” 

Statewide Partnerships

The statewide Mental Health First Aid Training, in partnership with the National Council of Behavioral Health, will provide every eligible New Jersey school the opportunity to send at least one staff person to be trained to become a certified Mental Health First Aid instructor. 

The New Jersey Department of Human Services will host statewide training sessions for school and higher education personnel to become certified through Mental Health First Aid’s “train the trainer” model. Participants will learn the risk factors and warning signs of youth mental health issues and be able to connect students to the appropriate resources and support from community behavioral health providers. 

The New Jersey Department of Education will launch the statewide Mental Health Working Group, made up of school practitioners, mental health providers, state agencies and advocates, to develop resources for districts to support the mental health needs of their students. In addition to providing best practice resources, the working group will boost resource sharing and communication between school communities, mental health providers, state agencies and stakeholder groups.

“Our plan is to create a roadmap that school districts and parents can use to provide children with the behavioral and mental health supports they need,” said Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet. 

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