HB 875- The Student Led Bill


Will Eaton, Staff Writer

On Monday, March 27, Helena students came to the legislature bringing testimonies and support to House Bill 875–a bill that they created.  

After three long hours of anxiously waiting in a hallway for their bill to be heard, the students finally got to listen to and participate in the House Education Committee meeting. Helena High students Hadley Scoles, James Kampen, Luka Krivokapic, and I sat in an audience amongst lobbyists, representatives, and government officials supporting House Bill 875. 

Sponsored by Rep. Melissa Romano, D-Helena, HB 875 was created by the student-led organization, The Democracy Project, to establish a school mental health promotion pilot program for Montana schools. 

The Democracy Project is a project funded by Humanities Montana and headed by public libraries in 13 Montana communities. The project’s initiative aims at creating teen-led programs to enact change within their communities. 

The Helena Democracy Project came together in agreement to center their initiative around student mental health education. 

The students worked with bill drafters and legislative directors to create HB 875 after the opportunity introduced itself earlier in the legislative session. 

 The bill was proposed to give schools the opportunity to apply for a grant administered by the Montana Office of Public Instruction to help create school mental health programs. The bill itself states, “The purpose of the program is to encourage and support schools in implementing innovative, student-led, and locally determined 15 mental health promotion initiatives.” To read the bill in its entirety, click here.

Several students from Helena High and surrounding schools testified to the committee. 

I myself testified to the legislatures with my testimony stating, “We feel static and overlooked most of the time when our livelihoods are being imposed on but here we are taking proactive measures. You represent the people of your state and it is your sworn-in duty to listen to them. So, listen when the younger generation is saying that an inadequate mental health system affects individuals, families, and communities. Listen when we say we require a mental health promotion program to help us make it.”

The bill died in committee 6-7, and a substitute motion to table the bill was approved 12-1. The group, however, is still hopeful for change within the future and is grateful for the opportunity. 

The Democracy Project is currently creating a comprehensive website of mental health information and resources for Montana students which will be unveiled later this spring.  

The local news source The Montana Free Press also ran a story on these students’ efforts. Click here to read it.  

We believe in our efforts to enact change and this is just one step in creating it.