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The pandemic made things harder on teens, so they wrote a new state law to help

The COVID-19 pandemic took students out of school for most of the last year – away from friends and activities, and away from resources that can connect them to help when they’re struggling with a behavioral health concern.

A new law drafted by teens aims to change that.

The bill signed this week by Gov. Jay Inslee requires public schools to place links to mental health resources on their online homepage, so it’s easy to find. It spells out which types of resources, too, including suicide prevention hotlines at the national and state levels, links to organizations specializing in eating disorders, depression, anxiety and counseling services.

They also must publish those resources quarterly through school social media channels.

A video still of high school junior Kellen Hoard testifying virtually to a state House committee. The caption notes he's speaking on House Bill 1373, on February 2, 2021.
Credit TVW
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Inglemoor High School junior Kellen Hoard testifies before a state House committee in February about a bill to make mental health resources easier to access for teens.

“We wanted to make it as easily accessible as possible,” said Charlie Fisher, a junior at Ridgefield High School in southwest Washington. “It will also normalize this conversation about mental and behavioral health. It’s very important and a lot of us have had a wake-up call … regarding mental health.”

Fisher is on the Legislative Youth Advisory Council, a non-partisan committee of students between 14 and 18 who are appointed by the lieutenant governor’s office. They conceived, wrote and lobbied for this legislation throughout the last session.

Kellen Hoard is the chair of the council and a junior at Inglemoor High School in Kirkland.

“Youth are taking an especially active interest in advocacy for a lot of reasons. They’re making effective change. Youth are really underestimated,” Hoard said. “By bringing youth to the decision-making table, by bringing youth into these processes, you’re going to get better policy. You’re going to get things that really do meet the needs of youth.”

Fisher and Hoard both spoke to KNKX about the law they crafted. Listen to the full interview above.

Ed Ronco came to KNKX in October 2013 as producer and reporter for KNKX’s Morning Edition. Ed started in public radio in 2009 at KCAW in Sitka, Alaska, where he covered everything from city government, to education, crime, science, the arts and more. Prior to public radio, Ed worked in newspapers, including four years at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, where he covered business, then politics and government.