WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/27/21]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) continued her fight to improve mental health services for students by reintroducing legislation to strengthen school-based mental health services for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The Mental Health Services for Students Act would help schools partner with local mental health providers to establish on-site mental health services for students. It would also provide training for school personnel on how to recognize, assist and refer students who may need mental health support.
Sen. Smith—a member of the Senate Health and Education Committee—said that schools are an ideal setting to identify students who need mental health services and quickly connect them to help. These services are especially important now, as some students have experienced negative mental health symptoms such as loneliness, anxiety, grief and hopelessness during the pandemic.
“Providing mental health services health to students at school—where they spend a significant portion of their time—helps them thrive,” said Sen. Smith. “It removes many barriers to access, such as trying to figure out how to leave school in the middle of the day, and promotes behavioral health equity.
“There is an acute need for mental health services in schools for our youth,” Sen. Smith continued. “Even before the pandemic hit, young people were experiencing mental health conditions about as often as adults, and roughly 1 in 5 students were experiencing severe mental health issues. The fallout of COVID-19 has only exacerbated this issue. I'm going to work hard to move this bill forward.”
The Mental Health Services for Students Act is supported by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-M.D.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).
Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.) has been a long-time champion of this bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Earlier this month it passed the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support by a vote of 349 to 74.
You can read a summary of the bill here.