Legislature discusses mental health and education

Updated: Jan. 12, 2023 at 6:58 PM CST
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - As much as ARPA funds have helped the state of Wyoming create supportive programs, the sunset date for these funds is around the corner, causing legislators to come up with new ways to sustain these projects’ financing.

On Thursday legislature focused on mental health and education.

The Joint Revenue Committee looked at sustainable funding for the 988 Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Initially paid for with ARPA funds, lawmakers are now looking for ways to sustain the program that has a sunset next year.

Ideas tossed around included taxing phone lines tapping general funds, or creating a $40 million surplus savings account and pulling from the interest.

“We’re going to fund what we have and do a good job and take care of our people and have an eye on the future with the rest of it how we leverage it for the future,” said Steve Harshman, Chairman of Revenue, H.D. 37.

Wyoming currently pays for our mental health centers with state dollars, but lawmakers wonder if expanding Medicaid might help.

“There are only 12 states that have not, and we’ve watched it now for over ten years to be really cautious and to watch it, but now really, I think it’s an issue of economic development,” said Harshman.

Next, the joint education committee is working on a bill to improve school expulsion and suspension policies.

Another bill looks at improving bullying policies in schools, not only from student to student but from teachers and administrators.

“The actions that were described to me go far beyond anything that should be happening in those relationships. Certainly, in a private employment sector, those actions would get an individual fired. So we should be expecting that same level of professionalism when it comes to interactions from our hired school district personnel and how they treat students,” said Affie Ellis, S.D. 8

One of the issues the committee faced was transparency of information and the public records act.

“The hard part is in looking at our public records act. It’s very difficult for parents, even members of the legislature to get information of what happened, what remedial action was taken and how was that incident handled,” said Ellis.

Both chambers and committees will convene on Friday.