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Whitmer, lawmakers push for increased school mental health funding

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Courtesy
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Michigan Executive Office of the Governor

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and lawmakers spoke with parents Monday morning in Pontiac in an effort to garner support for her budget proposal.

The discussion focused on mental health support for students.

Kelley Williams is the Pontiac School District Superintendent. She said she hopes the conversation leads to more resources, starting in elementary schools.

“We understand the sense of urgency around mental health. And so now that the dialogue is open and people are courageous enough to step up and discuss it, we now need the resources to back it,” Williams told reporters.

The governor’s proposed budget includes $361 million for school mental health staff and programming.

“This is an opportunity right in front of us. The Legislature’s still doing their piece. We’ll get to negotiations pretty quickly here, but we’ve shown that we can find common ground on important, big things and get them done, and I remain committed to that,” Whitmer said. A Senate proposal that recently advanced to the chamber’s full appropriations committee came in millions of dollars lower than the governor’s recommendation. Lawmakers said more spending will likely come during negotiations.

Despite the lower number, some budget items expand on Whitmer’s suggestions in the Senate version. Those include per-pupil spending and an allotment to open more school-based health clinics.

Melissa McQueen is a mother of four who took part in Monday’s roundtable discussion.

"My children have utilized school-based services, so the continued support in funding this is very important. I definitely am a firm believer of starting much younger," McQueen said. "Parents who may have experienced trauma and may not have had resources such as this [need] to be educated and aware and prepared.”

A common point that came up throughout the discussion was how vital mental health funding could be.

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI 14), who also participated in the roundtable, said she felt extra funding could save lives.

“We identify mental health, but we don’t push people to get the help. And, in some cases, the help isn’t even available, she said. "What this was about today is making sure that there are resources, and there’s funding, and there’s programs,” Lawrence said.

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