Last week, U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced the Mental Health Excellence in Schools Act to address the shortage of mental health providers in schools by authorizing the Department of Education to partner with higher education institutions to help cover students’ costs at relevant graduate programs.
The bipartisan legislation would boost the pipeline of graduate students trained to become school psychologists, counselors, and social workers responding to the youth mental health crisis that has been worsened by the pandemic.
“Access to critical mental health resources in schools is important for the safety, well-being, and academic performance of Hoosier students,” said Senator Young. “The Mental Health Excellence in Schools Act will help address the severe shortage of mental health professionals by partnering with graduate schools to increase education and participation in the school-based mental health workforce.”
“The pandemic put a spotlight on just how many students across New Hampshire and the nation struggle with isolation, depression and mental health challenges. We need mental health professionals in schools equipped to counsel students and help them heal from trauma. Unfortunately, we don’t have a strong pipeline of mental health providers, leaving many kids and teenagers vulnerable and without the help they need,” said Senator Shaheen. “That’s why I’m introducing new bipartisan legislation to invest in the next generation of mental health professionals serving in schools. By helping more students afford graduate programs centered on school-based mental health, we can attract more workers to this critical field. The mental health crisis isn’t going away, and it’s past time we dedicate resources and energy towards holistically helping those in need. We owe it to our children to empower them with tools to heal and succeed.”
“Our students need more support than ever, but without enough school psychologists and other school-based mental health providers our schools aren’t equipped to meet their growing needs. We are thrilled to see the bipartisan Senate introduction of the Mental Health in Schools Excellence Program Act and thank Senator Shaheen, Young, Peters, and Cramer for their leadership on this critical issue,” said Dr. Kathleen Minke, Executive Director of the National Association of School Psychologists.
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) recommends a ratio of one school psychologist per 500 students. However, the national average ratio is estimated to be approximately one school psychologist per 1,211 students, with wide variation among states.
The Mental Health Excellence in Schools Act seeks to increase the recruitment and retention of mental health services providers in schools. The legislation creates a program for the U.S. Department of Education to partner with eligible graduate institutions to cover up to the full cost of school-based mental health graduate programs for students at eligible institutions.
Similar companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House by Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.).
Full text of the bill is available here.