PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Next school year, students in Washington state will be able to take time off school for their mental health, thanks to new legislation passed by lawmakers earlier this year. 

Gov. Jay Inslee signed HB 1834 into law on March 11 and the bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously. 

The bill states that an absence for a mental health reason should be categorized as an excused absence due to an illness, health condition, or medical appointment. It instructs the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, or OSPI, to develop rules regarding mental health absences that districts can adopt. 

The OSPI was told to consult with a student advisory group on the topic. 

Most recently, OSPI held a public hearing and comment period on the proposed changes to the rules about mental health absences. The public was invited to submit comments ahead of the May 24 hearing. 

As it’s drafted, the rule states that any absence related to physical health or mental health symptoms, illness, health condition or medical appointment must be excused. This includes absences related to counseling, mental health wellness, and behavioral health treatment. 

States like Utah, Maine and Illinois have passed similar legislation that allows students excused absences due to mental or behavioral health. 

In 2019, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also signed a bill that allows students to take mental health days just as they would sick days.