Bill would create phone app for confidential mental health texting Ky. for young people – Winchester Sun

Bill would create phone app for confidential mental health texting Ky.  for young people – Winchester Sun

Bill would create phone app for confidential mental health texting Ky. for young people

Posted on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, 10:25 am

A bill to create a free mobile phone app for confidential crisis intervention for Kentucky youth, parents and their teachers will go before the House and Senate on Tuesday, March 7.

“It’s really dynamic and I think it’s pretty much a needle mover when it comes to helping our children when they’re in a very significant crisis,” Rep. Ken Fleming, R-Louisville, told the House Health Services Committee earlier. approved the bill on March 2. It was passed without opposition, so it was added to the approval calendar, in the case of non-controversial bills, which are passed as a group.

This service is in high demand. In December 2021, the US Surgeon General issued a 53-page health advisory on youth mental health, and the 2021 Kentucky Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 19% of Kentucky high school students had seriously considered a suicide attempt in the past 12 months. under. Before the survey, 15% made a plan about how they would try, and 9.5% actually tried.

The survey also found that 39.2% of the state’s high school students said they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks, so they stopped doing their usual activities.

The 2021 survey asked the state’s high school students whether their mental health was poor most of the time or always, including stress, anxiety and depression, in the 30 days prior to the survey, and found that 21.9% responded that Yes.

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House Bill 196, sponsored by Fleming, would create the Kentucky Mental Health Protection Center within UofL Health’s hospital system to establish and maintain mental health practice. The program is modeled after a similar program in Utah and would be called SafeKY. The app will be available to all students, parents and teachers.

Fleming said the plan is to pilot the app in the next year and then offer it statewide.

Liz McCune, vice president and chief operating officer of UofL Health, emphasized that the SafeKY phone app will connect youth with a licensed counselor via text message, which she says is a popular form of communication among youth. He said 89 percent of teenagers carry cell phones.

Texting conversations are anonymous, he said, but a licensed operator can connect the texter with law enforcement, school officials, a trusted adult or parent “to help resolve a crisis.” In addition to mental health crises, the app can also be used by students, parents and school administrators when they become aware that a student has a gun on campus.

“The goal of this is to increase school personnel and emergency services to connect these kids to prevent larger disasters,” McCune said.

He said the Utah program “deals with about 32,000 calls a year that have worked to reduce suicides and raise awareness of guns and hopefully prevent any catastrophic events.”

Fleming called the bill “monumental” and said the bill is “very important to the lives of our children,” noting that many Utah texts came between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.

Fleming said the SafeKY program complements 988, the new easy-to-remember suicide and crisis lifeline that is available nationwide.

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McCune 988 state representatives told him that there are 10 call centers in Kentucky that answer 988 calls, but only one or two of them can take text messages. SafeKy is designed primarily as a text and chat app, and can also tap into 988 or 911 services when needed.

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