Senator Portantino’s Bill Requiring Mental Health Training for School Teachers & Staff Passes Senate Education Committee

Wednesday, January 12 2022

For Immediate Release: January 12, 2022

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400


Senator Portantino’s Bill Requiring Mental Health Training for School Teachers & Staff Passes Senate Education Committee

Sacramento, CA – Today the Senate Education Committee approved Senate Bill 387, a measure authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge) which requires evidence based mental health training for school staff.

“SB 387 is more important than ever, as schools are transitioning to in-person learning and teachers are encountering student behavioral health issues resulting from the emotional impact of the pandemic,” stated Senator Portantino. “The reality is that when students return to school, their trauma and depression return with them.  If we don’t train teachers and staff – who are on the frontlines of this crisis, they will be left without the tools they need to help identify student mental health needs.”

California is in the midst of a youth behavioral health crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Distance learning increased isolation and disengaged many students with depression symptoms at an all-time high.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 1 in 3 California high school students surveyed reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row. Nearly 1 in 5 reported that they have seriously considered attempting suicide.

"CBHA applauds Chair Leyva and the Senate Education Committee for passing SB 387, bringing California one step closer to ensuring 75% of school staff are trained on how to recognize the signs of mental health and substance use challenges and make life-saving referrals to services," said Le Ondra Clark Harvey, Chief Executive Officer of California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies. "We thank Senator Anthony Portantino for being a tireless advocate for behavioral health and continuing to fight for California's students."

While existing law calls upon the California Department of Education to identify an evidence-based mental health training program, it does not mandate that schools establish a training program for their staff. SB 387 helps address this problem by requiring the California Department of Education to ensure that 75 percent of classified and certificated employees on school campuses complete an evidence-based behavioral health training program. Mandating an evidence-based training program will provide essential instruction on how students, teachers, school staff can best provide referrals to mental health services, substance use disorder services, or other support to individuals in crisis.

A coalition of behavioral health professionals and mental health advocates have sponsored SB 387: the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies, the California Student Board Member Association, Disability Rights California, Generation Up, Inc., and Inseparable.

Senator Portantino has long been advocating for policies that improve mental health outcomes for youth. Last year, he authored SB 14 and SB 224, which address the growing mental health crisis among California’s youth by implementing mental health education and training in schools. Governor Newsom signed both measures into law.  The Senator also previously authored SB 972, a measure that required schools to print the suicide hotline on student identification cards.  Additionally, the Senator dedicated three years to pass SB 328, which pushes back school start times for middle and high schools.