To determine the extent of implementation of the two recommendations included in our initial audit report, Oversight of Mental Health Education in Schools (Report 2020-S-63).
About the Program
As the steward of New York State’s education program, the State Education Department (Department) is charged with the general management and supervision of the State’s school districts and the education of approximately 2.5 million public school students statewide.
To help confront the mental health crisis among youth in New York State, the Mental Health Association in New York State, Inc. (MHANYS), a non-profit organization, led a call to action for a State law that would require mental health instruction in the kindergarten–Grade 12 health curriculum. With the passage of the legislation, which amended Section 804 of the Education Law (Law) effective July 1, 2018, New York became the first state to require that health education in schools must include instruction in mental health. Under the Law, the Department is responsible for enforcing the legislation.
In addition to education, mental health services are an important component of a mental health program; however, the Law stops short of requiring that all students have access to in-school mental health services. Although school districts are not required to provide mental health services to students unless specified in an individualized education program (IEP), schools are often considered the natural and best setting for comprehensive prevention and early intervention services for students, including those without identified education disabilities.
The objective of our initial audit, issued on April 11, 2022, was to determine what steps the Department is taking to ensure that school districts have the necessary mental health education in place as required by law. Our audit covered the period from July 2018 through August 2021. Overall, we found that the Department did not require school districts to submit any documentation or other information that would indicate compliance with the Law, and thus had no assurance that all school districts had developed and implemented the required mental health education curriculum. Furthermore, we determined that, for many school districts, their mental health teams (i.e., school-employed psychologists, counselors, and social workers) were understaffed, based on staff-to-student ratios recommended by the National Center for School Mental Health and the National Association of School Psychologists.
Department officials made progress in addressing the problems identified in the initial audit report, implementing both recommendations.
State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Nadine Morrell
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236