Washington, DC – As our nation’s children and youth head back to school, the Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to supporting their mental health needs. 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 among our nation’s youth. Recognizing the scale of this crisis, President Biden put forward a comprehensive national strategy to strengthen mental health.
Today, during U.S. Secretary Miguel Cardona’s Road to Success Bus Tour, a week-long, multi-state road trip, he will visit West Virginia University, where they increased their mental health supports for students and faculty using American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars. Secretary Cardona will also use this time to announce that the Department will be releasing $5,753,732 to the state of West Virginia through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act for supporting safer and healthier learning environments for K-12 students, including through increased school-based mental health support. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provided historic funding to support students, including $1 billion for creating safer and healthier learning environments, and another $1 billion to increase the number of school-based health professionals.
Today’s announcement builds on the resources and strategies for states and schools offered by the Department to address mental health needs. In January, Secretary Cardona laid out his vision for continued recovery including by increasing access to social, emotional, and mental health supports for all students. Additionally, the Secretary featured mental health supports for students as a pillar of his back-to-school bus tour. To help students thrive, the Department has:
- Begun the process of awarding the first of almost $300 million from the FY2022 bipartisan omnibus legislation and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to expand access to mental health services in schools. The Department has begun the process of disbursing 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, build a strong pipeline into the profession for the upcoming school year, and increase the diversity of the profession. In total, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will invest an additional $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.
- Sent a letter to governors across the country with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra to 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.
- Awarded $122 billion in ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, and experts indicate more than $2 billion is paying for more school psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals in K-12 schools. Some examples include:
West Virginia’s Monongalia County Schools used ARP funds to strengthen Student Support Teams with school counselors, psychologists, outreach facilitators and nurses. Adding these positions have helped to break barriers in the school-family connection to support overall student success. District data has shown an increase in students who have identified supportive relationships at school as well as an increase in students showing improved Emotional Regulation and Self-Management since spring 2021.
Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) will use ARP ESSER funding to hire new school counselors, mental health professionals, and recreational therapists due to an identified shortage in the state. OSDE has awarded grants for 222 school counselors, 94 licensed mental health professionals, and 42 contracts for services.
- Hosted a webinar to encourage the use of ARP funds to address the state and local school staff labor shortage, including mental health-based professionals, especially as the nation is seeing a rise in the youth mental health crisis, and how those funds can be most effectively used.