Mental Health--Depression Screening Bill--Ginsburg Testimony--10-18

My name is Betsy Ginsburg, Executive Director of the Garden State Coalition of Schools.  Thanks to Senators Ruiz and Singleton for sponsoring S-2835. 

We have all had numerous conversations about “school security” over the course of many months, but GSCS believes that without comprehensive student mental health support, there is no true “school security”.  I cannot think of a single one of our member districts that is not addressing the problems of depression, anxiety, suicide ideation and suicide attempts in a thoughtful and pro-active way.  It is for that reason that we support the intent of S-2835, but have concerns about the survey mechanism. 

Before we agree on any depression screening tool, including the two-question survey that has been under discussion, we believe that we need to take a step back, look at the likely impact of this legislation on school districts, and consider how this first step” screening tool might work out in practice.  We need to think of the reaction of parents and the students themselves.  We need to think of the added burden on school physicians and nurses, who are already dealing with heavy caseloads and scarce resources.  Perhaps most important, we need to ask questions about how we support students whose responses are “red flags” for potential depressive illness.

Our colleagues at the New Jersey School Boards Association and in other organizations have suggested establishing a task force to consider how we assess student depression and deal with the outcome of those assessments.  We urge you to consider that suggestion as you move forward with your commendable efforts to support our students’ mental health.