School Safety Bill puts emphasis on mental health resources


BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Administrators for Bay District Schools came together on June 7 to discuss how House Bill 1421 will help everyone involved.

“From the mental health aspect, to hardening our school campuses, providing officers for each school campus, and training our staff to be on the lookout for all things school safety,” said Director of Operations for Bay District Schools Josh Balkom.

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The bill was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this month and is aimed at improving school safety across the state.

Part of the bill requires 80% of school personnel in districts to complete youth mental health awareness training.

School leaders in Bay County say mental health is something they take very seriously.

“Currently 95% of our administrators and instructional staff are youth mental health first-aid certified,” said Director of Student Wellness Programs at Bay District Schools Dawn Capes. “That was a priority for us this year and that brings us to about 68% of our total staff who are trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid.

Capes said Youth Mental Health First Aid isn’t the only resource offered to students.

“We have at every single school mental health teams,” Capes said. “That means they’re licensed mental health workers at every school.”

These teams consist of social workers and other health professionals who provide preventative support to students.

Counseling is also offered. School leaders said they want their students to know they are not alone.

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