Lightford120216SPRINGFIELD — Children with mental health issues could be diagnosed and treated sooner thanks to a plan the Senate approved this week. Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) is leading legislation that requires social and emotional screenings for children as a part of their school entry examinations.

The proposal, which was approved in the Senate after some adjustments were made in the House, calls for the Department of Public Health to develop rules and an appropriate revision to the child health examination form. The effort is aimed at identifying potential mental health problems in school-age children, removing the stigma of mental illness and reducing teen suicide by identifying their needs and providing early intervention.

“This measure creates a better learning environment for all children,” Lightford said. “We are affording ourselves an opportunity to help children struggling with mental health issues to find treatment before it has serious effects on their development and possible negative consequences throughout their lives.”

Parents can also be discouraged by the mental health stigma to seek screenings or treatment for their children. Senate Bill 565 allows parents to discuss their child’s screening with appropriate school personnel after it has been submitted to provide more information and lead families to resources and services that benefit the child and family.

The legislation will now head to the governor for final approval.