State Rep. Thomas E. West (D-Canton) this week announced the passage of House Bill (HB) 12, his bipartisan legislation with Rep. Don Manning (R-New Middletown) to create the Ohio Children’s Behavioral Health Network. The network would bring together a diverse group of experts to develop evidence- and outcome-based solutions to improve the mental health of children and young adults across Ohio, with a special focus on prevention.
“Having worked in the mental health space for most of my professional career, I recognize the immense need for an integrated effort at the state level to give families the tools they need to support their children’s development,” said Rep. West. “It is my hope that with this legislation, we can renew Ohio’s promise of giving children a chance to thrive, not just survive.”
The Ohio Children’s Behavioral Health Network would coordinate and plan the creation of a comprehensive learning network to support young children and their families and facilitate social, emotional, and behavioral development. The group would include the Director of the Governor’s Children’s Initiatives, the directors of Health, Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Commission on Minority Health, the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and Medicaid and the Superintendent of Public Education. Members would also be selected from the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, the Ohio chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, federally qualified health centers, primary and secondary schools, and community behavioral health service providers.
The group would submit recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly after 18 months.
“I’ve heard from parents and major corporations like the Timken Company alike that they are worried about their own kids and their employees’ kids. There is no doubt we are facing a youth mental health crisis,” added West. “There is already so much incredible work being done at the local and state levels to improve children’s mental health—what we need now is to bring everyone together to build strong and supportive social networks of parents, caregivers and communities to ensure that all children are healthy and successful.”
More than 1 in 5 children living below the federal poverty level have a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder, and half of all lifetime mental illnesses start by the age of 14. Between August 2017 and March 2018, a staggering 12 students in Stark County died by suicide.
HB 12 was given priority status for the 133rd General Assembly by House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) last month. After passing the Ohio House, the bill heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.