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Bill would spend $32 million on mental health services in Utah schools

File photo. Photo credit: Utah State Capitol

SALT LAKE CITY – Lawmakers moved a bill forward today that would spend around $32.1 million on mental health services in schools.

H.B. 373 authorizes the State School Board to distribute the money for personnel to provide school-based mental health support. Educators and advocates testified of increased anxiety and depression and suicides.

Under HB373, “qualifying personnel” would include school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers or school nurses. The bill would work alongside other current and last legislation.

Representative Steve Eliason (eel-a-son) told a committee this morning that this will pay off for the state.

“If a child has mental illness that is discovered in their youth and properly treated, then, we don’t have to,” Eliason said. “It’s easier to fix a child than to repair an adult.”

Eliason says the problem exists whether or not the bill passes.

“The question is, do we want to put the resources to shift and lighten the load from those who currently have to bear it,” said Eliason. “To those who who are trained and better equipped to handle those challenges.”

Supporters of the bill say youth suicide is increasing in Utah, and this money would help schools to identify issues, make referrals, and get kids help.