Evers signs bills into law dealing with mental health, suicide prevention

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) – Governor Tony Evers signed a group of bills into law that take aim at addressing mental health concerns among students in the state.

At an event in Ashland County, Evers noted that the issue is a difficult one to talk about, but conversations around it can help address it.

“We need to have open discussions about mental health in schools, in our homes and our communities,” Evers said. “To make sure that we have the tools that we need to handle those situations.”

One new law establishes a pilot program in Outagamie County that allows quicker, more streamlined access for school staff to connect with child psychiatrists if a student is experiencing a mental health concern. The state currently has a shortage of child psychiatrists which leads to many students having to wait weeks or months if they are in need of more help.

If the pilot program is successful, it could expand to the entire state.

A second bill signed into law requires public schools and colleges to put local and national suicide hotlines on student identification cards. School districts that don’t already distribute ID cards are not required to start doing so.

Evers said it’s a small step but one that can have profound effects for young people.

“It’s just another tool in our toolbox for us to help students get the support they need to prevent suicide,” Evers said. “Talking about suicide is a really tough thing to talk about but it’s the second leading cause of death among young people. Not talking about it is not an option.”

A third bill signed into law creates new guidelines for school staff who restrain or isolate students as a form of punishment.

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