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New mental health requirement for Ohio high school coaches begins

By J.D. Davidson
The Center Square

High school athletic coaches in Ohio now have to complete training on student mental health before they can renew their activity permit in the state.

Ohio is the first state to require the training for prep coaches after an 18-month effort ended when the bill was eventually folded into the state’s new budget and signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine in July.

“Coaches know how to motivate young people and lead them to success on the field but may not be aware of how to help student-athletes with the challenges they may be facing off the field,” DeWine said. “The goal is to give coaches the tools they need to help identify student-athletes who may be struggling and connect them with the help they need.”

The Ohio Department of Mental Health has two training options on its website. Each can be self-paced and virtual. One is expected to take 60-90 minutes to finish, while the other is an eight-hour course.

“This law does not intend to make coaches act as therapists or other mental health professionals,” Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss said. “The training helps them recognize signs of potential mental health issues and how to take action to connect students and their families with the right people in their communities who can help.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the decade leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness, suicidal thoughts and behaviors increased nearly 40% among young people.

“Coaches have a unique view of students’ lives as they face challenges and experience successes alongside their peers outside of the school day,” said Chris Woolard, interim superintendent of public instruction. “Mental health training can help coaches recognize and respond to students’ needs to ensure they are supported in all of their environments, including athletics spaces.”

Coaches can apply for a three-, four- or five-year activities permit depending on their teaching license type.

The new mental health requirement adds to training previously required in coaching, CPR, first aid, concussions and sudden cardiac arrest.

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