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U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley sponsors legislation aimed at bolstering mental health services

Citing a shortage of mental health counselors in the country's public schools, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley has re-introduced legislation aimed at bolstering mental health services to students across the country.

Merkley, along with Massachusetts Sen. Katherine Clark, introduced the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act, which would create a grant fund program to help schools add additional mental health services for students. The bill was first introduced in 2018 and was re-introduced to Congress this year.

"Mental health care is essential health care …," Merkley said. "But as I meet with educators from across Oregon, one of the top concerns I hear is that our schools aren't receiving the funding they need to deliver the counseling services students deserve. That's unacceptable and it's putting the lives of our children at risk."

The legislation was co-sponsored by fellow Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and a half-dozen other Democratic and Independent senators.

Lawmakers pointed to a recommendations from the American School Counselor Association, which advocates for a student-to-counselor ratio of 250 students per counselor. The national average is 455 students per counselor and continues to rise, according to the association. For school psychologists, the recommended ratio is 500-to-700 students per provider and 250-to-1 for school social workers.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, mental illness affects 20 percent of American youths, with roughly half of all lifetime cases beginning by age 14.

The alliance also indicates that 90 percent of youths who die by suicide had a mental illness.

The proposed school counseling bill follows two new laws in Oregon aimed at improving mental health for students. Senate Bill 52, better known as Adi's Act, requires schools to develop suicide prevention plans. This year, House Bill 2191 went into effect, expanding the definition of sick days for students to include excused absences for mental health-related reasons.

"Students, teachers and counselors across Oregon tell me just how much young people facing challenges at home and in the classroom need better access to mental health care in schools," Wyden said of the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act.

School briefs

Immunization clinic slated for local children

If your child needs immunizations for school, a clinic is on tap later this month for them to take care of that necessity. From 3 to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 29 in the cafeteria at Edwards Elementary School, clinicians will be on site to provide immunizations to students. Those in attendance must bring their most up-to-date shot records, a parent or guardian if they are under 15 years old, and insurance information if they have it and a card for billing purposes. No student will be turned away due to an inability to pay, according to the release by Yamhill County Public Health. For more information, contact Anne Berger at 503-554-5363.

Selfie portrait show for students

The Chehalem Cultural Center invites students up to 18 years old to participate in a selfie portrait art show in November.

The show encourages participants to create an artful, current self-portrait using any medium and in any size as long as it is unframed. Students must drop off their artwork at the cultural center during the week of Nov. 19-23 with their name, age, school and contact information on the back of the piece. The show will be held in the cultural center's grand ballroom from Dec. 3-5, with the reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 5. Awards will be announced and a "popcorn bar" will be provided. For more information on the event, visit www.chehalemculturalcenter.org.

Ewing Young hosts holiday bazaar

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 16, Ewing Young Elementary School will host its annual holiday bazaar. According to promotional materials provided by the school, the bazaar will include homemade crafts, sweet treats, local vendors, granny's kitchen and much more. For more information, contact Kari McLaughlin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Auction on tap for Crater Elementary

The Parent-Teacher Organization at Antonia Crater Elementary school is hosting a fundraiser of sorts in early November. The Crater Autumn Auction, slated for 6 to 10 p.m. Nov. 9 at The Water Oasis on Dopp Road, will provide food and drink to paying attendees with proceeds from attendance fees and auctioned items going toward various causes at the school. Dinner will be catered by Storrs Smokehouse, wine will be provided by Hyland Estate Winery and beer will be available from local breweries. Cost is $35 per person or $275 for a table.

For more information, visit www.craterpto.org.


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