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Del. Teresa Reilly: School psychologists have become more important than ever to students | COMMENTARY

One of a series of weekly commentaries from Harford County state legislators regarding the 2021 Maryland General Assembly session.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a Happy Healthy New Year! As our daily routines have been strongly impacted by the coronavirus, we also begin the 2021 General Assembly session with many changes. I would like to use this article to introduce some of these changes as well as information on two bills that I am introducing this session.

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Del. Teresa Reilly, R-District 35B, Harford and Cecil counties
Del. Teresa Reilly, R-District 35B, Harford and Cecil counties

As a result of the passage of my bill in 2019, each school system submitted an interim report on school psychologists in the local school system. The report included the following information:

  • Number of schools with fewer than 700 students
  • Strategies to increase the number of school psychologists in each school with fewer than 700 students to not less than one school psychologist in each school on or before Oct. 1, 2020
  • Additional State or local funding needed by the local school system (total)
  • Policies to decrease wait times for students seeking to meet with a school psychologist
  • Strategies to increase the recruitment and retention of qualified school psychologists in the local school system

This year, I’m looking to address some of the report findings by way of legislation.

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With our Harford County students doing most of their school work remotely and the problems that sometimes attend our students, our school psychologists have become more important than ever. Therefore, I am introducing a bill that will address the School Psychologist Recruitment Program. This legislation will provide expanded professional development opportunities for school psychologists with financial reimbursement for conferences, etc. and a stipend for a Nationally Certified School Psychologist credential (NCSP).

A second bill that I will introduce will allow a certified school psychologist to bill Medicaid through the local school system for billable activities. Right now, this is not allowed. If the legislation passes, all school districts in Maryland would be able to access federal Medicaid funds which the district could then use for recruitment and staffing.

The amount of students requiring services has risen in the past few decades in all categories (suicide, major depression, behavioral and mental health, bullying, and the need for accurate IEPs.)

Our children deserve the best psychologists available and these bills will help in achieving that end.

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Now for some helpful information on some changes for the 2021 session.

The banner on the homepage of the Maryland General Assembly website (mgaleg.maryland.gov) offers you an opportunity to take video tutorials that will help you navigate the website, including: Introduction to MGA Website, Searching for Bills, Searching for Media, MyMGA New Account, Understanding a Bill Page, Finding a Legislator, Bill Tracking List and Witness Sign-up.

Since all testifying will be done virtually, you will need to do the following if you are planning on being a witness on a particular bill: Create a MyMGA account, go to the committee that is sponsoring the bill, scroll to further information, download and read “Witness Guidelines and Committee FAQ.” Every committee has different guidelines for testimony.

The Harford County Delegation schedules weekly meetings as necessary during session to discuss proposed legislation and issues that impact Harford County residents. The meetings are usually scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on Thursdays but may be adjusted as needed to coordinate with the House schedule.

The delegation meetings are being live-streamed on YouTube and recorded to allow the public to attend virtually. The Maryland General Assembly website has updated information on the delegation meeting schedule and may be accessed with the link below.

To access the live stream of the Harford County Delegation meeting during the meeting, visit the Maryland General Assembly website mgaleg.maryland.gov, scroll down the home page to the “Live Media” banner, look under “Other” on the upper right-hand side and locate Harford. Click “Harford” then the “Live!” button to join the live stream.

As always, I look forward to continuing working for you as your advocate and voice in Annapolis.

Teresa E. Reilly is a Republican representing District 35B in the Maryland House of Delegates and is chair of the Harford County Delegation.

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