SPRINGFIELD (IRN) — Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill that would put mental health on a par with physical health in the state’s public schools.
Senate Bill 2473 would give students five days of excused absences per school year for mental health issues. Students would be able to make up any missed school work.
Steve Murray, director of counseling at Notre Dame Prep in Niles, said the bill was a step in the right direction.
He said the bill was a good start toward recognizing the extent to which children can suffer from issues like anxiety and depression.
“This is a recognition that these are on a par with the flu or a cold,” Murray said. “They need to be treated as real illnesses and treated as impediments to kids being successful in school.”
Murray, who is also a past president of the Illinois Counseling Association and the Illinois School Counseling Association, said he personally would support the bill.
“It has the potential to be a really progressive piece of legislation, and I know personally I would support (it) and talk to my representatives asking that they support this initiative,” he said. “I think we’re becoming a lot more sophisticated in terms of society and recognizing that people are suffering and that those issues need to be addressed as quickly and as prudent as any other issue.”
Murray said the bill wouldn’t be a cure-all, but rather a starting point.
“Is it enough? Probably not, but you have to start somewhere, and you have to get that legislation passed, and you have to get people to recognize that this is an issue that needs to be addressed,” he said. “So I applaud the initiative. For Illinois to be progressive in this area is absolutely great.”