SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A bill working its way through the Roundhouse aims to bring a new resource to New Mexico schools. It won’t be a classroom though.
House Bill 112 would bring mental wellness rooms to every school across the state. It’s spearheaded by Democratic Representative Pamelya Herndon.
“There have been a number of incidents around the state that shows that we really do need this legislation in place in order to protect our children,” said Rep. Herndon.
Those incidents include situations like guns on campus, shootings, threats, and even the COVID-19 pandemic. “Parents were stressed about if could they pay for rent or mortgage, how were they going to feed their family if they couldn’t go to work. All of these things were also carried on the backs of children, our youth,” said Rep. Herndon.
The room would be a calming space for students to visit to work through any emotional, mental, or behavioral stress.
The latest version of the bill would give $5 million for a six-year pilot program on the wellness rooms. Schools can apply to be part of the pilot and public schools with a majority of students who are at risk or from low-income families would be prioritized. It’s something Santa Fe teacher Kymberly Goff believes is overdue.
“I am so grateful to the school counselors that we have in this district. There are not enough of them, and the load they carry is huge,” said Goff.
Rep. Herndon believes this bill also could solve a health professional crisis in the state by staffing each room with an intern at the college level to study behavioral health or a related field. “It’s a win-win situation, so we really are a part of the concept, so we are growing our own in New Mexico. We need more of these health professionals,” said Herndon.
It would take a burden off the teacher, so they can focus on the task at hand: educating the next generation.
Some schools across the state have already started planning. “Taos High School has begun to design one. Eldorado High school has one. Albuquerque High School is on the verge of having one, and La Cueva High School is beginning to work on theirs,” said Herndon.
If passed, schools participating in the pilot program would have to give a yearly report to the PED on the success of the wellness room.