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Oklahoma bill would link students, mental-health services

Times Record - 10/9/2019

Oct. 9--Oklahoma state Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-OKC, plans to file legislation in the 2020 legislative session that seeks to connect Oklahoma students with available mental health services, according to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Dollens' legislation would require Oklahoma's middle schools and high schools to print the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line on the back of each student's ID cards.

"This legislation isn't a cure-all to deal with the mental health issues our students face," Dollens said in the release. "It is, however, a pragmatic, cost-effective approach that not only makes it easier for young people to connect with trained mental health professionals, but it also reminds them that they are not alone.

"By making this number more prevalent and available to our school-age population, we can spread awareness on mental health issues, break down stigmas and encourage positive communications about mental health."

Suicide is quickly becoming one of the deadliest killers of young people. Legislation to promote mental health is needed and welcomed by the mental health services provider community, the release continues.

"Suicide in young people in Oklahoma is a terrible tragedy," Verna Foust, president of the Oklahoma Behavioral Health Association, said in the release. "In Oklahoma, we lose an average of two young people each week to suicide. Suicide is a complex behavior with many causes, including lack of mental health and substance abuse treatment, bullying, abuse, and feelings of hopelessness and despair. A bill being introduced this session to require public schools to print the National Suicide Prevention Hotline on student ID cards is a great step to help mitigate our teen suicide rates and prevent loss of our young people in Oklahoma."

The measure is also supported by the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma.

"Mental Health Association Oklahoma is committed to reducing and, ultimately eliminating, death by suicide in our schools," Mental Health Association Oklahoma Chief Administrative Officer Wendi Fralick said. "Any and all options that support this commitment deserve the attention of our legislators."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-8255. The number for the Crisis Text Line is 741741.

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