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Law Requiring Mental Health Checks For School Kids In Limbo


A year ago, lawmakers decided to change school health examination requirements. They added screenings for social and emotional development, but the details are still being worked out.

The law leaves it up to the Illinois Department of Public Health to put together the rules regarding these screenings. As the law reads right now, it’s vague. How they’ll be done, who receives them, and the tools needed to do so isn’t spelled out. That’s what the stakeholders are trying to figure out.

Brenda Huber, with the Illinois School Psychologists Association, is one of those stakeholders and she said there’s a lot to consider.

“Each of these systems are separate silos," said Huber. "Schools vs. mental health vs healthcare. This law really requires those three to work together in a way that is really challenging because they’re not integrated at the state level.”

Illinois was one of the first states to pass legislation making sure social and emotional screenings of young school kids are offered, but don't expect to see any type of change soon. 

“Whenever we’re working with children, it’s really unique because we’re trying to come up with a plan for how we can screen a two year old versus, you know, a 9th grader," said Huber. "Anytime you’re working with children, creating laws that are going to be implemented universally are going to be very difficult.”

Huber says at least 10% of children have emerging mental health  issues and these screenings will help with early intervention.

There will be two more informational meetings before the final rules are drafted.  After that, it could take another year or more before they are implemented.

Jaclyn has an MA in Journalism from DePaul University and a BS in History form Monmouth College. Prior to reporting, Jaclyn was a social science teacher and department chair at Greenfield High School. Previously, Jaclyn reported for WICS Newschannel 20 where she covered a variety of assignments including courts, politics, and breaking news. She also reported at Siouxland News in Sioux City Iowa, the shared CBS/Fox television newsroom. Her internships included WGN and Comcast SportsNet in Chicago.