AURORA, Ill. – A bill sponsored by state Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, to include mental health days in students’ excused absences was recently signed into law.
“It’s critical that schools are offering support to students who struggle with their mental health,” said Hernandez. “Just as we would allow a student with a cold or a fever to stay home from school, students should be able to have the same treatment for days where they need a break for their mental health.”
Hernandez sponsored Senate Bill 1577, which expands excused school absences to include mental or behavioral health, allowing for students to have up to 5 mental health days without needing a medical note. This measure passed unanimously through the House and Senate and was signed by the governor last week.
Throughout her time in the General Assembly, Hernandez has been a strong advocate for increasing awareness of mental health struggles among children and teens. This past session she also helped pass a bill to create a mental health task force to help determine methods and programs for K-12 students to receive mental health care. She supported a measure to urge Illinois schools to provide education for all students in grades six to 12 on how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of addiction and mental illnesses, as well as provide instruction for how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.
“Students of all ages can experience struggles with their mental health, and the pandemic has likely exacerbated that for many,” said Hernandez. “By allowing students to take a day off from school to take care of their mental health, we are not only giving them the support they need, but also validating their feelings and showing them that taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of physical health.”