Wexton, Underwood, Fitzpatrick, Panetta Lead Bipartisan Effort to Address Youth Mental Health Crisis and Fund School-Based Mental Health Services
“We have a critical opportunity to build safer, healthier school environments to better support the academic, social, and emotional development of our youth and give them a stronger foundation as they grow into adulthood.”
Washington, January 21, 2022
Washington, DC -- Today, Representatives Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), and Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) led a bipartisan group of over 70 Members of Congress in urging House and Senate Appropriations leadership to prioritize funding for programs that address the severe shortage of school-based mental health professionals. In the bipartisan letter to leadership of House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Members emphasized the need to act and highlighted U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy’s recent advisory on protecting youth mental health. Members noted how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to severely affect the mental health of young people and emphasized the need for greater school-based mental health services.
“We are seeing the crisis described in the Surgeon General’s advisory reflected in our own communities, where we are witnessing unprecedented increases in mental and behavioral health concerns among our young people. We are hearing more than ever before from parents, students, and educators about the urgent need for greater mental health supports, particularly for increased numbers of school-based mental health service professionals,” the Members wrote.
In the letter, Members urged negotiators to commit to addressing the crisis by providing the maximum possible funding for two programs at the Department of Education, the Mental Health Services Professional Demonstration Grants program and the School-Based Mental Health Services Grants program, in the Fiscal Year 2022 spending package. Together, these programs address the critical shortage of school-based mental health professionals in two essential ways: by increasing the available workforce, and by helping school districts support increased positions to improve access to services.
The United States’ growing youth mental health crisis has been exacerbated by the pandemic and could have wide-ranging, long-term effects on an entire generation. From 2007 to 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that suicide rates among young Americans increased 56 percent. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24, and the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to accelerate these tragic trends.
Along with Wexton, Underwood, Fitzpatrick, Panetta, Representatives Cheri Bustos (IL-17); Antonio Delgado (NY-19); Madeleine Dean (PA-04); Peter Welch (VT-AL); Doris Matsui (CA-06); Tony Cárdenas (CA-29); Cori Bush (MO-01); Gwen Moore (WI-04); André Carson (IN-07); Susan Wild (PA-07); Earl Blumenauer (OR-03); Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12); Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL); Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32); Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01); Sean Casten (IL-06); Karen Bass (CA-37); Sharice L. Davids (KS-03); Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02); Angie Craig (MN-02); Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06); Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30); Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05); Danny K. Davis (IL-07); Jason Crow (CO-06); Tom Malinowski (NJ-07); Marie Newman (IL-03); Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. (NC-12); Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10); Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA-44); Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02); David B. McKinley, P.E. (WV-01); Jahana Hayes (CT-05); Mike Quigley (IL-05); Seth Moulton (MA-06); David Trone (MD-06); Juan Vargas (CA-51); Jerry McNerney (CA-09); Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05); Peter A. DeFazio (OR-04); Joseph D. Morelle (NY-25); John Katko (NY-24); Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18); Abigail Spanberger (VA-07); Jan Schakowsky (IL-09); Dwight Evans (PA-03); Haley Stevens (MI-11); Josh Harder (CA-10); Ayanna Pressley (MA-07); Darren Soto (FL-09); Troy A. Carter, Sr. (LA-02); Thomas R. Suozzi (NY-03); Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16); Jerrold Nadler (NY-10); Dean Phillips (MN-03); Jim Costa (CA-16); Katie Porter (CA-45); J. Luis Correa (CA-46); Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04); William R. Keating (MA-09); Nikema Williams (GA-05); Kim Schrier, M.D. (WA-08); Bill Foster (IL-11); Conor Lamb (PA-17); John Yarmuth (KY-03); Elissa Slotkin (MI-08); Robin Kelly (IL-02); and Sara Jacobs (CA-53) joined the letter.
Full text of the letter can be found here and below.
January 21, 2022
Dear Chairman Leahy, Chair DeLauro, Vice Chairman Shelby, and Ranking Member Granger,
Thank you for your leadership and efforts to advance appropriations bills for the 2022 fiscal year. As you work toward a final package, we urge you to help ensure that federal programs targeted to address the severe shortages of school-based mental health professionals are funded at the maximum possible level.
The trauma, disruption, stress, and isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have acutely impacted the mental wellbeing of our nation’s youth. On December 7, 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued an advisory sounding the alarm on the mental health crisis facing our young people. America’s growing youth mental health crisis has been exacerbated by the pandemic and could have wide-ranging, long-term effects on an entire generation, posing significant public health challenges that require the American people’s immediate attention.
We are seeing the crisis described in the Surgeon General’s advisory reflected in our own communities, where we are witnessing unprecedented increases in mental and behavioral health concerns among our young people. We are hearing more than ever before from parents, students, and educators about the urgent need for greater mental health supports, particularly for increased numbers of school-based mental health service professionals, a key recommendation in the Surgeon General’s advisory.
Prior to the pandemic, significant need already existed among students for mental health services, while schools have continuously faced critical shortages of qualified practitioners, including school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers. National mental health organizations recommend a ratio of one school counselor and one school social worker for every 250 students, and a ratio of one school psychologist for every 500 students. Currently, however, the national ratio is close to or well over double the recommendation for each profession. In many school districts facing acute shortages, these ratios are even worse.
Integrating mental health services in schools helps both students and staff succeed by addressing issues such as bullying, self-esteem, substance use, and suicide, while improving the school’s capacity to identify, refer, and provide services to help students in need. School-based mental health professionals have been proven to improve staff retention, help keep students in school, and promote learning environments where students feel safe, supported, and ready to learn.
In August 2021, the House of Representatives passed its Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies FY2022 Appropriations bill, which included over $1 billion in combined funding for the Department of Education’s Mental Health Services Professional Demonstration Grants program and School-Based Mental Health Services Grants program. Together, these programs address the critical shortage of school-based mental health service professionals in two distinct and essential ways: by increasing the available workforce, and by helping school districts support increased positions to improve access to services.
The significant investment in school-based mental health services passed by the House is reflective of the urgency of the crisis facing American students. We must rise to meet the calls to action in the Surgeon General’s advisory and from our constituents. We have a critical opportunity to build safer, healthier school environments to better support the academic, social, and emotional development of our youth and give them a stronger foundation as they grow into adulthood.
We urge you to include the maximum possible funding for the Department of Education’s Mental Health Services Professional Demonstration Grants and School-Based Mental Health Services Grants programs in the final conference agreement.
If you are in crisis, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential.