Our nation’s young people are facing an unprecedented mental health crisis. Even before the pandemic, rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts among youth were on the rise. The pandemic exacerbated those issues, disrupting learning, relationships, and routines and increasing isolation—especially among our nation’s young people. More than 40 percent of teenagers state that they struggle with persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and more than half of parents and caregivers express concern over their children’s mental well-being.
To address this crisis, President Biden put forward in his first State of the Union a comprehensive national strategy to tackle our mental health crisis, and called for a major transformation in how mental health is understood, accessed, treated, and integrated—in and out of health care settings.
Today, the Biden-Harris Administration announced two new actions to strengthen school-based mental health services and address the youth mental health crisis.
1. Awarding the first of nearly $300 million the President secured through the FY2022 bipartisan omnibus agreement to expand access to mental health services in schools. Next week, the Department of Education will begin the process to disburse almost $300 million Congress appropriated in FY22 through both the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the FY22 Omnibus to help schools hire more school-based mental health professionals and build a strong pipeline into the profession for the upcoming school year. In total, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will invest $1 billion over the next five years in mental health supports in our schools, making progress towards the President’s goal to double the number of school counselors, social workers, and other mental health professionals. This funding is allocated to two critical programs:
- The Mental Health Service Professional (MHSP) Demonstration Grant Program. In FY22, this program will provide over $140 million in competitive grants to support a strong pipeline into the mental health profession, including innovative partnerships to prepare qualified school-based mental health services providers for employment in schools.
- School-Based Mental Health (SBMH) Services Grant Program. In FY22, this program will provide over $140 million in competitive grants to states and school districts to increase the number of qualified mental health services providers delivering school-based mental health services to students in local educational agencies with demonstrated need. This will increase the number of school psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals serving our students. Some schools will gain mental health staff for the first time. Others will see this critical workforce expand. By increasing the number of qualified mental health professionals in our schools, and thereby reducing the number of students each provider serves, this program will meaningfully improve access to mental health services for vulnerable students.
In the following months, the Biden Administration will deliver the following additional FY22 funding that can be used to expand access to mental health services and supports in schools:
- Fostering Trauma-Informed Services in Schools. Young people have been especially impacted by the trauma of COVID. Over the next several weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will begin evaluating applications to award nearly $7 million to education activities designed to help students access evidence-based and culturally relevant trauma support services and mental health care. Applications were submitted on July 25, 2022, and award announcements will be made this fall. The grant funds will help create partnerships that link school systems with local trauma-informed support and mental health systems to provide services to students in need.
- Expanding Mental Health Services Through Full-Service Community Schools. The Biden-Harris Administration has proposed expanding funding for community schools, which play a critical role in providing comprehensive services to students and families to improve academic outcomes and student well-being. In response to the President’s FY22 budget, Congress more than doubled funding for the Department of Education’s Full-Service Community Schools Program, which supports community schools that provide, or establish partnerships to provide, a range of wraparound supports for students and their families—including health, nutrition, and mental health services. Earlier this month, the Department announced plans to award $68 million in funds for 40 new grantees. All grantees are required to provide integrated student services, which can include mental health services and supports.
- Responding to Childhood Trauma Associated with Community Violence. The FY22 omnibus included $5 million for the Department of Education’s Project Prevent, a program that provides grants to help school districts increase their capacity to implement community- and school-based strategies to mitigate community violence and the impacts on students. Experiencing or witnessing violence in the community is an adverse childhood experience linked to chronic health issues, including mental health. Project Prevent seeks to build a bridge between schools and community-based organizations to provide students with the tools to break cycles of generational violence and trauma, including through the use of mental health services and supports.
2. Encouraging Governors to Invest More in School-Based Mental Health Services.
In a letter sent today to governors across the country, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services highlight federal resources available to states and schools to invest in mental health services for students. The joint letter from Secretaries Becerra and Cardona highlights actions by the Biden-Harris Administration to improve the delivery of health care in schools and make sure children enrolled in Medicaid have access to comprehensive health care services, as required by law. The letter also previews forthcoming Medicaid guidance on how states can leverage Medicaid funding to deliver critical mental health care services to more students, including ways to make it easier to bill Medicaid for these services.
Next Up: $1.7 Billion for Mental Health Thanks to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act
An additional $1.7 billion for mental health is headed to our schools and communities thanks to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) signed by President Biden last month. Provisions of this legislation authorize funding and technical assistance in the following areas:
- Expanding Community Based Behavioral Health Services. $40 million for HHS to support the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) Medicaid Demonstration Program, including support for new planning grants to states. CCBHCs provide comprehensive, coordinated, person-and family-centered services and 24/7 crisis intervention services.
- Enhancing Delivery of School-Based Mental Health. Working with the Department of Education, HHS will establish a technical assistance center and award grants for implementing, enhancing, or expanding the provision of assistance through schools under Medicaid and CHIP.
- Improving Oversight of Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Benefit. HHS will review and identify gaps in state implementation of ESPDT compliance, provide technical assistance, and issue guidance to states in order to improve implementation of this critical benefit.
- Increasing Access to Children’s Mental Health Services. $80 million to HHS to award grants to support pediatric primary care providers, emergency departments, and schools to rapidly access mental health specialists’ expertise and better connect children to care. The Act also requires CMS to provide guidance to states on how they can increase access to behavioral health through telehealth under Medicaid and CHIP.
- Expanding Training for Pediatric Providers. $60 million, over five years, for HHS to train primary care residents in the prevention, treatment, and referral of services for mental and behavioral health conditions for pediatric and adolescents.
- Supporting Community and First Responders Mental Health Training. $120 million for HHS to prepare and train community members and first responders on how to appropriately recognize and safely respond to individuals with mental health problems.
- Building Awareness of and Access to Mental Health Services. $240 million for programs that increase awareness and access to mental health supports for school-aged youth.
- Providing Support after Traumatic Events. $40 million to improve treatment and services for children, adolescents, and families who have experienced traumatic events.
- Enhancing the 9-8-8 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. $150 million to support implementation of the 24/7 hotline to provide free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
- Improving Conditions for Student Learning. $1 billion in funding through Title IV-A to support a variety of activities to improve conditions for student learning through evidence-based practices to promote positive school climates.
- Expanding Access to Out of School Programs. $50 million in funding to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program to fund extracurricular, after school and summer programs, with a focus on reengaging youth. The Department of Education will support grantees in using funds to build relationships between students and educators, and other adults who serve students, in ways that help students feel less isolated and more connected to their school, improving their overall mental health and well-being.
Building on Progress
These actions build upon earlier investments and announcements designed to expand access to mental health services for youth and further President Biden’s Unity Agenda. In just 18 months, President Biden has invested unprecedented resources in addressing the mental health crisis and providing young people the supports, resources, and care they need. Through the American Rescue Plan (ARP), the Biden-Harris Administration has invested over $5 billion in funding through HHS to expand access to mental health and substance use services, and school districts are estimated to use an additional $2 billion in Department of Education ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to hire more school psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals in K-12 schools. And the President’s FY23 budget proposes over $27 billion in discretionary funding and another $100 billion in mandatory funding over 10 years to implement his national mental health strategy.
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