Congress Should Provide for Students’ Mental Health

Jessica Eagle, M.A.Ed., N.C.C.
Legislative Representative, 
American Counseling Association

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Since the Newtown tragedy, a spotlight has been placed on the mental health of our country’s youth, creating an expectation among many Americans that we would come together as a nation and respond to the need for improved school safety and mental health access. Indeed, dozens of bills were introduced in the Congress, and numerous Congressional hearings on mental health were held. In the Senate, 95 Senators voted in favor of the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act, which would have reduced youth suicide and mental health barriers to academic and social success.

Unfortunately, the effort to pass comprehensive mental health reform legislation has lost its momentum, leaving our schools and communities in a dire situation due to a one-two punch of funding cuts by state and local governments, and a polarized Congress’ inability to agree on a budget to fund essential community-based programs that support our country’s most vulnerable populations.

The American Counseling Association believes that progress is still possible this year and urges members of the CFYM community to join us by taking the following actions:

First, we need to push Congress to continue funding existing programs that provide mental health services to students, including The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program.

This program has been excluded from new Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization proposals, yet it is the only grant program that directly funds the hiring of school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers in awarded districts. This program has been critical in providing the services school counselors are uniquely positioned to provide. School-based mental health professionals facilitate better collaboration and communication with community-based services so that children and youth receive the support they need in a coordinated and comprehensive system of care.

Two other school-based mental health programs that Congress can appropriate funding to are Safe Schools Health Students Initiative and Integration of Schools and Mental Health Systems. To read more on the programs and take action, click here.

Second, let’s support our Senators in moving the Mental Health Awareness and Improvement Act (S.689) to the Senate floor.

This bipartisan mental health bill has a chance of passing in the Senate. Ask your Senators to co-sponsor S.689 to build the momentum for getting this bill to a floor vote.

Jessica Eagle can be contacted at jeagle@counseling.org. For more on what the American Counseling Association’s Public Policy team is working on, go to www.counseling.org/publicpolicy.

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