A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

If "dropping out is no longer an option" then we need to meet the needs of our students

If "dropping out is no longer an option" then we need to meet the needs of our students

February 25, 2009

“And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American.”
- President Barak Obama: February 24, 2009

President Barak Obama’s first address to Congress last night featured calls to action on a range of issues: energy, health care, government spending, economic responsibility, and education.

Particularly striking was his direct charge to young people, placing the responsibility for remaining in school and graduating directly on their shoulders.

Addressing the epidemic of high school dropouts is a laudable goal, one that echoes Governor Patrick’s call to cut the Massachusetts dropout rate in half by the end of his first term. But telling students that dropping out is no longer an option is not enough – for many students contemplating leaving school, there are daily struggles with mental health needs that make going to class incredibly difficult.

Some 8% (21,000) of Massachusetts teens are high school dropouts – of these young people, 50% failed to complete school because of mental health issues.

To effectively reduce the dropout rates, we must do better in providing resources to schools and assistance to students with mental health concerns.

As part of Chapter 321 of the Acts of 2008, the Children’s Mental Health bill, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has convened an interagency Task Force on Behavioral Health in the Schools, which is in the process of developing a plan to help schools and students with these needs. The Task Force has met twice so far, with plans to meet again in April.

Health Care For All and the Children’s Mental Health Campaign applauds the Patrick Administration for its diligence in this issue.

If the goals of Chapter 321 are realized only in respect to mental health resources for schools, Massachusetts will again be leading the way nationally in an important health arena.
Matt Noyes