I thank the Guam Youth Congress, Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, Guam Department of Education and our community stakeholders for their collaboration, as well as my colleagues in the 35th Guam Legislature for unanimously passing a bill that will make a real difference in the lives of our students. Our children are facing real problems, and the adults in this community, all of us, are obligated to do something to help.

Bill 155-35 extends the life of a program called Youth Mental Health First Aid. As the name suggests, the approach is to train people with no clinical education or experience to be the first step in treating behavioral problems – like how a bystander would conduct CPR while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Hundreds of government employees have already been trained through a federal grant that piloted the program. But because it expired, it became important to use local dollars to keep this life-saving strategy active.

Published concerns

Recently, concerns about this legislation were published in a column penned by Marie Halloran. She and Rainbows for All Children have done so much over the years to help Guam’s youth navigate difficult times like divorce, separation and death. Thankfully, the issues outlined by Ms. Halloran were already addressed through the input from stakeholders like the GBHWC and GDOE, and my fellow senators during its drafting, public hearing, and session deliberations.

Once the governor signs the bill into law, the public can be confident the locally funded training expansion:

• will be offered to personnel and both GDOE and charter schools;

• ensures that all public middle and high schools are allocated training opportunities;

• will not issue stipends to trainees upon successful completion, instead, we will use those funds to offer additional training slots, purchase training materials, or pay for administrative expenses;

• will generate annual reports to track who has received this training, and factors affecting youth mental health, including rates of tobacco use, alcohol consumption, drug use, depression, and suicide rates; and

• can be offered to private school employees, or other stakeholders through the flexibility afforded to GBHWC under the appropriation.

It's everyone's business

It’s everyone’s business to treat our youth suicide, abuse, drug addiction and violence rates. These are not “problem kids” being difficult to handle. They are abuse victims, neglected sons and daughters, and bullied students. These behaviors are cries for help, and I’m thankful our government collectively is stepping up to answer them.

Sen. Régine Biscoe Lee is a mom and a member of the 35th Guam Legislature

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