National Council for Mental Wellbeing

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Shelley Starkey

Legislation Would Improve Mental Health Services in Schools

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The Mental Health Services for Students Act (S. 1122/H.R. 1109), introduced in the Senate earlier this week and in the House earlier this year, would increase access to evidence-based comprehensive mental health programs for the nation’s youth in local schools and communities. The bill would build on youth-focused programs that incorporate promising practices in education, social services, local primary health care, and trauma-informed behavioral health care to help communities take action to help youth and adolescents in need. The National Council applauds Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Representatives Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and John Katko (R-NY) for their leadership on this important issue.

Expanding access to mental health services in schools has been a long-standing priority of the National Council, as 17 million youth have had a diagnosable mental health disorder, and one in four have substance use conditions, but less than 35 percent receive treatment. Given the early onset of emotional, mental health and substance use disorders and their subsequent direct and indirect costs, investments in prevention and early intervention programs are necessary.

“The Mental Health Services for Students Act builds on the great success of our youth suicide prevention program in Los Angeles County, where we are raising mental health awareness, reducing harmful stigma, and connecting our future leaders to life-saving care,” Rep.  Napolitano (D-CA) said at the introduction of the House version of the bill earlier this year. “Improved access to services for prevention, early identification, and intervention has helped countless youth in our communities thrive in school, at home, and in life, and it is a model that should be expanded to serve families across America.”

The National Council joined over 50 other organizations as part of the Mental Health Liaison Group in writing a letter of support to Senator Smith (D-MN) for introducing the bill this week.