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Entries for April 2021


Sending kids back to the classroom is a goal across the country for many reasons. Along with concerns about falling behind academically and parents’ need to have children in school, experts also are concerned about mental and behavioral health needs. Studies indicate children in need of such services are much more likely to receive them at school.

Our guests include Craig Wethington with the Minnesota Department of Education. He discusses how his state has used collaborative improvement and innovation networks, or CoIINs, to improve the quality of school mental health services. He also talks about a community survey of students that indicates many kids were struggling with mental health issues even before the pandemic and how the legislature in his state worked to improve mental health programs.

Another guest on the show is Rebecca Astorga with the Arizona Department of Education. She discusses programs and resources states can employ to bolster their mental health services and the role that Project AWARE, a federal grant program, has played in expanding the capacity of the state to address mental health issues among young people.

We also talk with Noah Cruz, an NCSL policy researcher, who offers some background on the topic.

Noah Cruz, NCSLCraig Wethington, Minnesota Department of EducationRebecca Astorga, Arizona Department of Education






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Emily BenferMillions of people are evicted from their homes every year in America and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the situation worse. While poverty in America has been studied extensively, much less is known about evictions. In the last 20 years, the Eviction Lab at Princeton University has gathered records on more than 80 million evictions. Matt Desmond, who created the Eviction Lab and authored the Pulitzer Prize winning book “Evicted,” was interviewed on an earlier episode of “Our American States.”

To discuss how the eviction crisis has grown during the pandemic, we invited Emily Benfer on the podcast. Benfer, a visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University and an expert on housing and health law, is the co-creator of the COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard with the Eviction Lab and principal investigator in a study of nationwide COVID-19 eviction moratoriums and housing policies. She also chairs the American Bar Association's COVID-19 Task Force Committee on Eviction.

Benfer explains how the pandemic has exacerbated the eviction problem, who is being evicted and how the recently extended federal eviction moratorium factors into the situation. She also explains the role state policymakers can play in implementing state eviction moratoriums and how some legal procedures can help people facing eviction.


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The Quad Caucus is a coalition of the four national caucuses of color representing Asian-Pacific American, Black, Native American and Hispanic  legislators. Combined, the four groups represent more than 1,400 state lawmakers. The group came together in 2012 with the support of NCSL and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and is focused on promoting equitable outcomes in all communities focusing on people of color in the areas of health, education, economic security and justice.

On this podcast we talk with Washington Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D) and Kansas Rep. Barbara Ballard (D). Both are veteran legislators and longtime members of the Quad Caucus. Santos and Ballard discussed the work of the caucus and the effort to create more diverse legislatures.

Kansas Rep. Barbara BallardWashington Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos





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