Lightford 020617SPRINGFIELD — Children suffering from mental health issues will be diagnosed sooner under a measure signed into law today. Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) led efforts for the new law requiring social and emotional screenings for children as a part of their school entry examinations.

The proposal calls for the Department of Public Health to develop rules and an appropriate revision to the child health examination form.

“It is important that our children understand that many people deal with mental health issues, that mental illness does not define someone and that they do not have to suffer alone,” Lightford said.

Identifying potential mental health problems in school-age children helps prevent possible negative consequences throughout their lives. Requiring mental health screenings opens up dialogue and combats the stigma of mental illness. The law also aims at reducing teen suicide by identifying their needs and providing early intervention.

“I wanted to make sure we are being proactive in facing an issue that plagues our state and country every day,” Lightford said. “Our children deserve all the tools they need to develop into productive adults. I’m hopeful for the outcomes this new law will bring about.”

Parents may 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 law goes into effect on June 1.