Our next Behavioral Health Champion, Congressman Kevin Kiley, is a former high school English teacher and spoke to us about the nexus he sees between education and behavioral health policy.
His time as a teacher: “I taught 10th grade English in a community in inner city Los Angeles. And you have students who are having struggles in their life and you see how it impacts their academic performance. You see how it impacts their overall outlook towards life… I probably had 180 students or so at any given time, 150 students at any given time, and so you’re able to get a sense of how significant this problem is in a lot of ways. And so that’s why I’ve really had a passion for addressing this issue in particular in our schools.”
“And I think that above all, the problem is that we are not getting students the help that they need in a timely manner. I think California continues to rank near the bottom nationally when it comes to access to mental health services on our schools and at our school sites.“
A life-and-death issue: “We’re seeing that our inability to address this in a systematic way is creating a cascade of negative consequences in communities across the state, affecting issues ranging from homelessness to poverty, to public safety, to the shape and quality of our communities, but perhaps most poignantly creating tragedies for the individuals who are affected. And so I would like to see a greater sense of urgency on that out of the governor’s office and the legislature.”
Talking about behavioral health is the first step: “I think that anytime you can give the issue more attention that’s helpful. It helps to create political will, I think. It helps to put the issue more in the public consciousness and especially when it comes to an issue like this where half the battle is reducing stigma, half the battle is a general sense of awareness.“