lightford committee aprilSPRINGFIELD - Children with mental health issues could be diagnosed and treated sooner thanks to a plan the Senate approved today. Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) is leading legislation that mandates social and emotional screenings for children as a part of their school entry examinations.

The proposal, which passed the Senate on Friday, requires the Department of Public Health to add social and emotional screenings to its health examinations in an effort aimed at identifying potential mental health problems in school-age children, removing the stigma of mental illness and reducing teen suicide.

“We see the effects of mental illness and its stigma every day. Attacking these issues during a child’s developmental stages will foster a better educational environment and provide a clearer way of looking at mental health issues,” Lightford said. “Ignoring these issues only delays the child’s development and can have negative consequences throughout his or her life.”

Senate Bill 565 will now move to the House for consideration.