On May 23, 2018, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) filed legislation (S.2934) to hire more mental health professionals in schools across the country. The move was prompted not only by school shootings but a 2016 report from the Florida Association of School Psychologists that found Florida has only one school psychologist for every 1,983 students. Compared to the nationally recommended ratio of between 500 and 700 students per psychologist, the data shows Florida has only one-fourth the number of school psychologists it needs to properly care for its students. That lack of available mental health professionals in Florida’s schools is one of the reasons why only a small percentage of children in Florida who need mental health services receive them.
Recognizing the critical shortage that currently exists, the legislation would require the U.S. Department of Education to conduct a study to determine which areas of the country have a shortage of school mental health professionals. The legislation would provide grants to help create school/university partnerships to help train, recruit, and retain school-based mental health service providers in high-needs districts that are experiencing critical shortages. The legislation also directs the U.S. Department of Education to (1) establish a loan forgiveness program for school-based mental health service providers who work in low-income districts for at least 5 years and (2) conduct a comprehensive study on the shortages of school psychologists, school counselors, and school social workers.
The National Association of School Psychologists advocates strongly to remedy the shortages in school psychology. These are some of the key policy objectives: obtain federal assistance in recruiting and retaining school psychologists; make school psychologists eligible for loan forgiveness and have programs funded; allow for interstate credentialing reciprocity to alleviate shortages in under-served areas; and collect accurate data on school psychologists to better understand the extent of the shortages.
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- In what ways might the mental health services in schools in your area be improved?
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Select Children’s Mental Health on Care for Your Mind
- Anne Marie Albano, PhD, Back to School Anxiety. What is Your School Doing to Help Your Child Succeed?
- Kelly Vaillancourt, PhD, NCSP, National Association of School Psychologists Issues Call to Action
- Kelly Vaillancourt, PhD, NCSP, How You Can Educate Local and State Officials to Increase School Mental Health Services
- Adam, Sharing a Pathway to Inner Peace in a Stressful World
From the National Association of School Psychologists
- Resources about school psychology and mental health
- Information about the school psychology workforce
- Federal Public Policy and Legislation Platform