On January 18, 2022, the Kentucky House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 44 RS 22, which amends, “A local school district’s student attendance policy shall include provisions for 11 excused absences due to a student’s mental or behavioral health status.” State Representative (D) Lisa Willner introduced the bill to the floor for consideration. It came to her attention after numerous students spoke in favor of amending the bill to add the wording to include days be excused on behalf of the student body and the ongoing mental health issues brought on by the pandemic.
From Lisa Willner’s Official Facebook Page:
“HB44, our bill to allow excused absences for student mental health days, passed unanimously out of the House Education Committee today!
The bill is bipartisan, rural and urban in its origins, and student led.
Thanks to Rep. Bobby McCool for partnering with me on the bill, and to Kameron Julian of DuPont Manual HS, Cole Butcher of Johnson Co HS, and Amira Bowman of Marion Co HS for their thorough research and compelling testimony.
Out of committee, now on to the House chamber!”
For Kentucky, this comes at a time when counseling agencies are already feeling the weight of the overwhelming need for clinical interventions. Agencies across central Kentucky have worked diligently over the past two years to ensure that student needs were met, but the ongoing push from state and local governments to keep schools open come at a price that the students end up paying. While clinicians push to try and make services readily available to the public, the school system continues to lose teachers and other staff to the pandemic, which puts strain on the learning experience for the students. Once that environment is impacted students seek out the help of clinicians, and with this new bill the hope is that while working with the families the children can focus on their mental health without taking a hit on their attendance at school.
The Fayette Country school district also implemented that going forward the school district will no longer use snow days. Instead, the district is enforcing the use of Non-Traditional Instruction days (NTI) over the entire district to avoid using any extra days during the calendar school year that could affect when the students would be released for the summer break. This move is also intended to supplement learning should the district need to close the district due to the rising pandemic numbers. Other counties around Fayette, such as Woodford County, have already felt the sting of forced closing due to lack of staff to oversee the school days. The ability for the school district to recognize that children are at-risk to miss more days due to illness and are working to circumvent that without putting stress on the child or their family says that more attention is being paid to the mental health and abilities of the students and staff.
HB 44 serves as a needed reminder that while we are trying to move forward in a pandemic that seems never-ending, the mental health implications for all involved should be of a greater importance. There is an acceptance in allowing excused absences for mental health issues and for mental health interventions. Both children and caregivers can breathe a sigh of relief with the knowledge that they will not be looked down on or held to an unattainable expectation in regard to their overall health and well-being. By including mental health in the conversation, it gives clinicians a seat at the table to advocate on behalf of their clients and more versatility in options for intervention and treatment. An excused absence means families can now have the freedom to make appointments as needed with their clinicians, which means a larger window of time available, and more opportunity for scheduling. A better use of time can mean a better outcome, and hopefully the Kentucky House of Representatives can see the value of HB 44 when the time comes for the bill to be passed.
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If you or your children are having a hard time adjusting to the changes over the past 2 years, please reach out to us. We can help. There is no waiting list. Call us at 606-676-0638 and have an appointment scheduled within 2 business days. We accept all Medicaid MCO’s, VACCN through Optum, TRIcare East, self-pay and some private insurances.
Christina Terrano, LPCA, CCTP, CTMH graduated Cum Laude with a BA in Psychology & Sociology specializing in Clinical Counseling from Saint Leo University, as well as a MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from The University of the Cumberlands. Christina is certified as a Trauma professional and as a Telemental health provider, as well as psychological first aid in crisis response. Christina currently offers counseling services through Intrust Healthcare Counseling Services out of Lexington, KY.