Letter to the Hon. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, the Hon. Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader, the Hon. Frank Pallone, Chairman of the Committee on Energy & Commerce, and the Hon. Greg Walden, Ranking Member of the Committee on Energy & Commerce - 70 House Members Urge Inclusion of the Mental Health Services for Students Act in the Next COVID-19 Relief Legislation
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Chairman Pallone and Ranking Member Walden:
We are witnessing how fear and anxiety about the coronavirus can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions for our constituents, especially children. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that one in five youth already experience some type of mental health disorder that can cause significant challenges at home, school, and their community. Yet, prior to this public health emergency, only 10 percent of children and adolescents ages 3 to 17-years-old received any treatment or counseling from a mental health professional. That is why we strongly encourage you to include H.R. 1109, the Mental Health Services for Students Act, in the next coronavirus package.
The bill would provide $200 million in competitive grants for public schools across the country to partner with local mental health professionals to establish comprehensive mental health services for students. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, testified in May before the Senate on the prospect of reopening school buildings and said, "We don't know everything about this virus, and we really better be very careful, particularly when it comes to children". While schools work to navigate this pandemic, it is also important that we provide them with the resources to create a mental health plan to reach their students during this stressful time.
H.R. 1109 is based on the successful Youth Suicide Prevention Program in Los Angeles County and would provide grant funding for public schools to ensure the long-term availability of mental health services for students. Regular classes will eventually resume and according to the CDC, children may feel upset or have other strong emotions after an emergency. How a child reacts can vary depending on their age, previous experiences, and how that child typically copes with stress.
The Heroes Act does provide $100 Million for Project AWARE to identify students and connect them with mental health services and $90 billion in additional grants for states to support schools, which could be used for counseling, mental health services, and family engagement efforts. However, the effects of this pandemic will not easily disappear. We need to ensure the long-term availability of mental health services for students, which H.R. 1109 would accomplish.
H.R. 1109 has 131 bipartisan co-sponsors and has the support of 60+ mental health organizations, universities, local governments and teacher unions. It is now time to act on this bill, which has had broad support for decades.
We would truly appreciate your continued commitment to mental health by including H.R. 1109 the Mental Health Services for Students Act in any future coronavirus stimulus packages.