For Immediate Release
Contact: Peter Clark, 512-473-2274
Austin – Following the announcement by Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath regarding establishment of the new Hurricane Harvey Task Force on School Mental Health Supports, Josette Saxton, Director of Mental Health Policy at Texans Care for Children, released the following statement:
“We are thrilled to see this new Task Force. Our state leaders are absolutely right that addressing the trauma created by Hurricane Harvey must be an integral part of the state’s strategy for recovering from the storm. If a student keeps reliving a terrifying rescue from a flooded house or wondering where her family is going to live next week, we know she’s not going to be able to focus on learning algebra.”
“We know that childhood trauma – whether it’s caused by a hurricane, hunger, neglect, family instability, or something else – can affect children’s brains, academic performance, and behavior in school. We also know that children can thrive after trauma if teachers, counselors, principals, and school police officers are trained to understand trauma and mental health professionals are available to work with students.
“Prior to Hurricane Harvey, there was a growing recognition that Texas needed to address student mental health as a strategy for helping kids succeed in the classroom. In recent years we’ve seen individual school districts and communities, with little guidance or support from the state, implement programs to create positive school climates for all students and partner with local mental health providers to serve students with greater needs. During the 2017 legislative session, state leaders began to focus on the issue. The Legislature passed HB 4056, recognizing the importance of trauma-informed care in schools. House Public Health Committee Chairman Four Price developed a multi-layered student mental health bill, HB 11, although it narrowly missed coming up for a vote in the House. We are pleased to see that state leaders are now ready to build on this recent momentum and take a more active role in addressing student mental health.
“We look forward to working with the Task Force to ensure that student mental health supports are put in place during this school year and that the Legislature takes action during the next legislative session to address this critical issue.”