SALT LAKE CITY — The House Education Committee endorsed legislation Monday that would create a two-year telehealth mental health pilot program that could be accessed by a limited number of public schools.
Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, sponsor of HB308, said there is tremendous need for mental health services in Utah schools such as crisis intervention and to buttress the labors of the extremely limited number of school counselors and social workers. Rural schools have especially limited resources, he said.
HB308, which seeks an appropriation of $590,000, would require the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to create a telehealth mental health pilot grant program.
Although some committee members said they believe one-on-one in-person counseling would be more effective than technology, all but one committee member ultimately voted for the bill.
Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, who cast the dissenting vote, said she does not believe that offering mental health services via telehealth "is the proper role of our public schools."
But Ivory countered by recounting a meeting among school principals who were shown a photograph of a classroom trashed by a student in the throes of a mental health crisis.
Each of the principals wondered aloud if the photograph had been taken at their school, Ivory said.
When that sort of disruption occurs in a classroom "education doesn't happen. Teaching doesn't happen," Ivory said.