The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation that would authorize the state to pay for 142 mental health coordinators for every school system in the state.

House Bill 123 is sponsored by State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville). Ledbetter is the House Majority Leader.

“This deals with school mental health coordinators,” Ledbetter said. “I am proud to say that we have 142 mental health coordinators across the state.”

Rep. Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville) said, “This is a step in the right direction.”

Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton) said, “This is a need for students. I commend you for this.”

Baker brought an amendment that would increase this to all the independent schools the state runs: School of Fine Arts, School for Math and Sciences, Cybersecurity School, and School for the Deaf and Blind.

Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) said, “Thank you for getting up the working group on mental health. This is a part of it and I am proud to support your bill.”

Ledbetter explained that formerly school systems could get the mental health coordinators through a grant program, but not every system had applied for the grants.

“This bill changes the application from a grant program and puts one in every school district,” Ledbetter said. “This is part of the puzzle,” to deal with the mental health of children.

State Rep. Tim Wadsworth (R-Arley) wanted to put a mental health coordinator in every school.

“We do not have enough mental health professionals,” Ledbetter said.

Ledbetter said that the University of Montevallo has come forward and agreed to expand their program in order to get more qualified applicants.

The legislation requires that mental health coordinators “shall be responsible for coordinating student mental health services throughout the local school system. (b) An individual hired as a coordinator shall possess at least one of the following qualifications: (1) Have a bachelor's degree in social work. (2) Satisfy State Department of Education qualifications for a school counselor. (3) Satisfy State Department of Education qualifications for a school nurse. (4) Have professional mental health experience, or have been licensed in a mental health occupation including, but not limited to, licensure as a licensed professional counselor or marriage and family therapist. (5) Other qualifications as determined by the Alabama Department of Mental Health and the State Department of Education. (c) Within one year after being hired as a mental health service coordinator, an individual shall earn a school-based mental health certificate by successfully completing a certification program developed by the Alabama Department of Mental Health.”

State Rep. Rolanda Hollis (D-Birmingham) said, “The child will not get better unless the parent accepts that the child needs help.”

Rep. Barbara Drummond (D-Mobile) said, “I have met with those folks, and they are professionals.”

Baker’s amendment was adopted 99 to one.

Jackson said that he worked in this field during his career as an educator.

“There is a fine line between normal and abnormal,” Jackson said.

House Bill 123 passed the House by a vote of 102 to zero.

The legislation now moves to the Alabama Senate for its consideration.

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