State has numerous initiatives aimed at helping student mental health

State officials are working on several fronts to address the mental health needs of Kansas students.

More than 1,700 students received help last year through the school Mental Health Intervention Program.

Most of those students showed improvements in attendance, behavior and academics, Diane Gjerstad, who has been helping with implementation of the program, told the School Mental Health Advisory Council on Thursday.

The program initially included nine school districts in partnership with Community Mental Health Centers. But it has since been expanded with a second year of funding from the Legislature to 180 schools in 32 districts.

The council also received an update from Myron Melton, with the Kansas State Department of Education, on the upcoming rollout of a suicide prevention and response toolkit.

Melton said the toolkit, which will be officially released later this month, can be used by school districts and communities. In preliminary discussions it has received praise as comprehensive and highly needed, he said.

The number of Kansans, aged 10-24, who have died from suicide has increased from 68 in 2015 to 99 in 2017. Suicide is the leading cause of death for middle and high school students.

The council also received updates on the work of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying, which will provide its recommendations to the State Board of Education in December.

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