Government / Legislative Update

Lightford Mental Health Bill Signed Into Law || Welch Named Chairman of House Education Committee

Kimberly Lightford Head ShotWednesday, February 1, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

A bill that would require students to undergo social and emotional screenings as part of the process for enrolling in school was signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Jan. 20.

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th), the bill’s primary sponsor, introduced the legislative proposal in 2015. State Rep. Camille Y. Lilly (78th) was the bill’s lead sponsor in the house. Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) was also a co-sponsor of the legislation.

The new law (SB 0565), which takes effect this June, “requires the Department of Public Health to develop regulations to include age-appropriate social and emotional screening in the health examination that already includes other health and dental exams for all school children in the state,” according to a report published on the ACEs Connection Network.

“The rules will be developed in conjunction with statewide organizations representing school boards, pediatricians, and educators along with mental health experts, state education and healthcare officials, and others,” the report states.

“I want young people struggling with mental health to have the option to get help. I want families to know that if their child is battling a mental health issue, it is normal, they have treatment options, and it does not have to stand in the way of their greatness,” Lightford said in a recent statement.

Lightford added that the new law, while a good first step, needs to be reinforced with greater investment.

“Requiring screenings for our children is a good step forward, but we are going to have to invest more effort and resources to deal with these issues,” she said. “I will continue working with advocates and communities to bring more comprehensive solutions to mental health issues.”

Welch Named Chairman of House Education Committee

welch-photo

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, left. | Photo: Rep. Welch

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th) was recently appointed chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education. Before this most recent appointment, Welch was the committee’s vice-chairman. He also serves on the House Appropriations Committees for Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education.

“Our colleges, universities and their students are facing challenges like never before,” Welch said in a recent statement. “I’m honored to lead this committee and be a part of the process that will oversee important legislation to increase access to higher education and make it affordable. We must protect institutions and put polices in place that help our state grow economically and foster tomorrow’s leaders.”

Welch noted that he also anticipates appointments to the House Committees on Cities & Villages, Judiciary – Civil and Labor & Commerce. VFP

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