By Sloane M. Perron, Manager of Marketing Communications 

On Thursday, Anna Maria College and the Molly Bish Center invited area legislators to a briefing on mental health in schools.  

The legislative panel included Senator Michael Moore, Senator Anne Gobi, Senator Robyn Kennedy, Representative Kimberly Ferguson, Representative James O’Day, and Amanda Hellyar who represented Senator Ryan Fattman’s office.  

Anna Maria College President Mary Lou Retelle thanked the legislators for their continued advocacy to protect the most vulnerable populations among us – children and the elderly. She also spoke to the Anna Maria social work students in attendance and addressed how worker shortages and mental health struggles exuberated by the pandemic make their work as future community care professionals all the more important.  

“We continue to do the work that we think is important. Because of you, we do this with excellence knowing you are our strong advocates on Beacon Hill,” Retelle said. 

The panel discussed nine legislative proposals ranging from SD. 230, an act focusing on student health to SD. 251, an act preventing and responding to the bullying of the elderly and disabled patients. SD. 882 applies to the entire population since it would permit familial searches and partial DNA matches in unsolved crimes. Heather Bish, an advocate of SD. 882, attended the event on behalf of the Bish Family.  

Senator Robyn Kennedy, Chair of the Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee said that ensuring that social workers make a livable wage so that they are able to provide compassionate care to those in need is key to combating the systematic burnout and stress facing the public right now.  

“I appreciate and know firsthand about the workforce struggles and the lack of workforce that we have right now, the exhaustion and burnout that we saw during the pandemic, and what that has led to a real crisis across a multitude of workforces in our community right now in need. We have to be investing in that. So, thank you to Anna Maria, for building up the pipeline, to the next generation of social workers and leaders, you are so desperately needed in our community,” said Senator Kennedy.   

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