Govt. Beshear honors students who helped pass mental health bill

FRANKFURT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Your mental health is health.

It’s the same as a broken bone or a heart condition that you can’t always see.

Marion County sophomore Amira Bowman has been one of the catalysts working to get House Bill 44 signed into law. The bill allows for school districts to accept mental health as a reason for an excused absence. On Thursday, Beshear welcomed the student leaders, including Bowman, to honor their accomplishments.

“I am proud that at least this time, people listened,” Beshear said.

Getting there wasn’t an entirely smooth process.

“I’ve learned how you can really make a true difference within the process and how you can actually take care of your fellow citizens,” Bowman said.

Even Governor Andy Beshear admits these students did something he didn’t when he was the same age.

“When I was a high school student, I came up here, lobbied for a bill, I tested and it didn’t happen,” Beshear said with a slight chuckle.

HB 44 passed the House unanimously in January. This bi-partisan legislation was originally introduced saying a local school district’s attendance policy shall include provisions for excused absences because of a student’s mental health. The final version says the school boards may include the provisions.

“Our amazing young adults here today remind us that our mental health and their mental health isn’t red or blue,” Beshear said. It is not democrat or republican.”

“It was so empowering to hear him say directly to us, how important it was to him to hear from our voices, and I think that just really enforces what I said before about how students can make a difference if they really believe in themselves, “Bowman said.

Bowman and other students used their voices to speak up about their own experiences with their mental health. Beshear says this bill helps encourage students that the following words are beyond acceptable.

“I just need a minute,” he said, saying it’s okay to ask for time to address mental health. “I just need a day. And that’s not just okay. It’s understood. And it’s supported.”

Bowman’s next step is to try and encourage as many districts as possible to include this in their policies.

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