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Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Every Student Succeeds Act Creates Funding Opportunities for Behavioral Health in Schools

October 6, 2016 | Children and Youth | Comments
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The newly enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides schools with federal resources that can be used to carry out behavioral awareness trainings for educators, such as Mental Health First Aid, and to implement school-based behavioral health services. The law, enacted in December 2015, replaces the previous version of the U.S. national education law known as No Child Left Behind. Full implementation of ESSA is scheduled for the 2017-2018 school year, but funding is still moving through the Congressional appropriations process.

In an important step forward, ESSA encourages schools to create relationships with mental health provider organizations. It permits school districts to use ESSA funds to contract with community providers for programs like Mental Health First Aid and similar trainings that help educators recognize the signs of trauma and mental health disorders, as well as make appropriate referrals to services. Behavioral health provider organizations can also partner with schools to help students most at risk for school failure improve their academic achievement through specific behavioral health-related interventions.

Additionally, ESSA requires schools to be more trauma-informed. The law calls upon schools to reduce their use of disciplinary practices that remove children from the classroom and encourages schools to provide trauma-informed social, emotional, and mental health support for students. Specifically, a new ESSA block grant suggests the following uses for funding:

  • Schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports
  • Trauma‐informed and evidence‐based school–based mental health services
  • Evidence-based drug and violence prevention programs
  • Child sexual abuse awareness and prevention programs; bullying and harassment prevention programs; school dropout and re‐entry programs
  • Training for school personnel in trauma‐informed practices in crisis management, conflict resolution, human trafficking, school‐based violence prevention strategies, and bullying and harassment prevention

Read more about ESSA’s impact on students with behavioral health needs here.