LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto visited Doris Hancock Elementary School today, the elementary school she herself attended, to celebrate its first week back to in-person learning.

“I have heard from Nevadans, from children, from parents, our teachers about the challenges of educating our kids in the middle of a pandemic. I am focused on making sure that our kids can heal from this pandemic which has taken a huge toll on them,” said Senator Cortez Masto.

More than $1 billion is headed to Nevada public schools to provide COVID-19 relief. Senator Cortez Masto says roughly 800 million is expected to help the Clark County School District.

The senator hosted a news conference at 11:30 a.m. with state and local leaders to discuss efforts to reopen Nevada schools safely and quickly.

Senator Cortez Masto addressed this issue with local school officials and discussed how they can better support students as they return to school by putting behavioral health experts in schools and giving students access to peer counseling. She stressed the importance of this as Clark County students experience trauma, with some sadly dying by suicide.

The senator expressed concern over the rise of mental-health-related ER visits from students last year.

Senator Cortez Masto highlighted her proposal to expand mental health coverage in Nevada, as stressors increased for students amid the pandemic from a year of remote school and isolation, saying kids need help to recover and “heal from this pandemic.”

CCSD said on Twitter: “Thanks, @SenCortezMasto @NVSupt for visiting Doris Hancock ES to celebrate our first week back with full, in-person hybrid learning. @SuptJaraCCSD

Originally tweeted by CCSD (@ClarkCountySch) on April 7, 2021.

In a letter to the Departments of HHS and Education requesting support for students in managing their mental health, Senator Corez Masto said, “Between March and October of 2020, the rate of children’s mental health-related emergency department visits was 44 percent higher than the corresponding period in 2019. In my state of Nevada, the Clark County School District saw 18 suicides over the course of remote learning in 2020, doubling the incidents in all of the previous school year, and earning national attention.”

CCSD reports 23 students dying by suicide since last March.

Senator Cortez Masto has worked to ensure the American Rescue Plan included funding for school re-openings to protect students, families, teachers, and staff, and helped secure $92 million to support COVID-19 screening testing in schools.

Addressing the impact the pandemic has had on student mental health, Senator Cortez Masto said, “we need to make sure students have the long-term care they need,” adding that the community wants this.

Event attendees:

  • U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
  • Nevada Department of Education Superintendent Jhone Ebert
  • Clark County School District Trustee Lola Brooks
  • Clark County Schools District Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara
  • Clark County School District Trustee Lola Brooks
  • Doris Hancock Elementary School Principal Sarah Payne

The senator expressed gratitude for being able to virtually meet with students in Nevada over Zoom who have shared their concerns about the impact that the pandemic has had on their mental health.

She spoke on supporting schools and making sure they have the resources they need to reopen schools safely while also addressing the digital divide.

She is urging the Departments of HHS and Education to work collaboratively with local school officials to develop resources and guidelines to formulate reopening frameworks that will enable them to support returning students, including:

  • Development of trauma-informed guidelines for educators welcoming students back to school and the community-based providers serving them;
  • Administration for Children and Families to support schools looking to develop best practices for parents and connect families in need with wraparound services available in the local community;
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to help to identify the community-based providers who can best support the ongoing mental and behavioral health needs of students and facilitate collaborations between schools and these providers;
  • Office of Safe and Healthy Students to provide resources to guide best practices in safe, welcoming school environments, including professional development for educators, evidence-based instructional practices, mental health screening tools, and best practices to build partnerships between schools and community-based organizations;
  • Resources to help respond to increases in students experiencing homelessness and poverty and a larger volume of highly mobile students.

For more information please visit the official Senator Cortez Masto website.