Housing is Healthcare

NJ Spotlight Share’s Brian Kulas’ Story and the Importance of Mental Health Services

This week we are focusing on Medicaid, one of the five public policy priorities for the 2019 Congressional Reception which is in one month as of today. We request that our elected officials in Congress oppose any replacement of the Affordable Care Act that eliminates Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid expansion has ensured that people experiencing homelessness receive critical healthcare services. Medicaid provides health insurance to parents, caretakers, dependent children, pregnant women and people who are aged, blind or disabled.

Regarding health services here in New Jersey, recently, the New Jersey General Assembly’s Education Committee voted unanimously in favor of legislation that would require mental health education in public schools beginning as early as kindergarten. Brian Kulas, a Board Member of Monarch Housing Associates and advocate for mental health education, testified in Trenton last Monday after learning about the proposal the previous evening.

The new bill, sponsored by Assembly Members Gary Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic), John McKeon (D-Essex, Morris), Joann Downey(D-Monmouth), Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) and Daniel Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), focuses on providing suicide awareness and prevention in public schools as early as kindergarten. Schools would be required to have age-appropriate mental health education in their curriculum.

Kulas has been personally affected by mental health problems dating back to the first grade. Having attempted suicide in the seventh grade, this proposal touches close to home.

Brian Kulas

In an article published by NJ Spotlight, Kulas recalls what it felt like to be in the first grade, “I felt different and really felt a distance from other students. But I was in first grade. What was I supposed to know?”

The bill aims to engage young people, helping them understand their mental health and be more prepared to deal with mental health issues. 

NJ Spotlight highlights that New Jersey has one of the lowest suicide rates in the nation. However, more must be done. While there is mental health education in public schools, a focus on suicide awareness and prevention in ages as soon as kindergarten is essential.

As this proposal heads to a final vote in the full Assembly, Kulas hopes that other young children will receive the mental health services he never received.