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State Legislature Advances Measure to Address Mental Health Needs of Students and Teachers After Local Emergencies

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA — Last week, the California State Legislature approved a bill authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D - Woodland Hills) to address the state’s ongoing youth mental health crisis. If signed by Governor Newsom, the bill, Assembly Bill (AB) 2072, would enable school districts and charter schools to develop a mutual aid system in which qualified mental health professionals or other key personnel could be rapidly deployed in the event of a natural disaster, mass shooting, or other traumatic events.

“Students and teachers need and deserve more mental health resources, particularly after a traumatic event like a wildfire or mass shooting,” said Assemblymember Gabriel. “This bill will allow communities to better pool and share resources so that we can support communities when they need it most.”

Following natural disasters and human-caused traumatic events—such as destructive wildfires or school shootings—there is a tremendous need for mental health professionals and other key school personnel to be available to support pupils and staff impacted by those events. These kinds of events are on the rise both in California and across the country. There have been 26 school shootings reported in the U.S. so far this year and 118 incidents since 2018.

California has also seen a dramatic increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires over the past few years. Of the 20 most destructive fires in California’s history, 15 have occurred since 2015, including five in 2020 and two in 2021. According to a state report on the impact of climate change on K-12 education and child care, the frequency of extreme wildfires burning over approximately 25,000 acres could increase by nearly 50 percent by 2100.

Most schools currently lack an adequate number of mental health professionals and other key personnel necessary to support pupil and staff recovery from large-scale traumatic events. AB 2072 is a preventative tool that will help communities and school districts work together and improve resiliency in the face of emergencies and natural disasters.

“As our state continues to experience traumatic events due to natural disasters, sadly our youth are seriously impacted by the toll that these events take on their personal and academic well-being,” said Derick Lennox, Senior Director of Governmental Relations and Legal Affairs for the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association. “On behalf of the 58 county superintendents of schools, we are grateful for Assembly Member Gabriel’s leadership on AB 2072, which promotes careful local preparation in order to quickly deploy mental health professionals and leverage regional resources so that our communities are prepared to act fast during a crisis.”

The bill now moves to the Governor’s desk, where it must be acted on by September 30th.