The Democratic Women’s Caucus in the House of Delegates is calling for reform when it comes to the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders in West Virginia.
“I find it fitting that Delegates have been broken into working committees for Education ‘Betterment’ during Mental Health Awareness Month,” said Delegate Lisa Zukoff (D-Marshall). “Any educational reform must include measures to address the growing mental health crisis facing our state’s children.”
According to a 2017 National Survey of Children's Health, West Virginia has the second highest percentage of children who endure Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) two or more times during their adolescence. ACEs include poverty, incarceration or death of a parent, and household drug addiction, among others, and they have been credited as a contributing factor for many serious academic, social and behavioral problems that may prevent a child from receiving the full benefits of education.
“When children are facing issues of insecurity at home, those issues don’t get left at the school door,” said Delegate Cindy Lavender-Bowe (D-Greenbrier), who taught for 10 years in the Kanawha County School District. “They come into the classroom distracted or they seek attention because there’s no one at home who cares what they do. They’re unable to settle down to learn and their classmates become disrupted too. It’s not their fault; they simply don’t have the tools they need to focus on learning.”
“Funding additional health counselors in our schools deserves its own legislation,” said Delegate Amanda Estep-Burton, who has three children in the public school system. “Last session, it was buried in the ‘Omnibus’ Education Bill, but our students deserve access to mental health care; it shouldn’t be used as a bargaining chip to make a bad bill seem more palatable.”
The remaining members of the caucus are Delegate Sammi Brown (D-Jefferson), Delegate Barbara Fleischauer (D-Monongalia), Delegate Linda Longstreth (D-Marion), Delegate Margaret Staggers (D-Fayette), and Delegate Danielle Walker (D-Monongalia).