Ed Dept prioritizes expansion of school mental health workforce in distribution of funds

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Diving brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday released its priorities for distributing grants in the Federal Register to increase student access to mental health services in schools. Together, the grant requirements would encourage states and districts to expand school mental health services by increasing, diversifying, recruiting, and retaining school mental health personnel.

  • One of the two grant proposals, the School Mental Health Services Grant Programprioritize funding for states and districts that plan to recruit and retain mental health service providers, as well as states that respecialize existing social workers, counselors, psychologists, or other mental health professionals to serve in the schools through training.

  • The second proposition, the Mental Health Professionals Demonstration Grant Program, would prioritize projects that pair needy districts with institutions of higher education to train professionals in school mental health services. It also prioritizes projects that would increase the number of professionals from diverse backgrounds.

Overview of the dive:

The priorities for grant funding, which have yet to be distributed, come just days after the Biden administration announced the two programs on Friday.

“The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has brought challenges for children and young people that have impacted their overall emotional, psychological and social well-being and their ability to engage fully in learning,” the department said in the proposal. “Disturbances to routines, relationships and the learning environment have led to increased stress and trauma, social isolation and anxiety.”

The funding is the first of nearly $300 million from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the fiscal year 2022 budget allocated to expand mental health services in schools. This week, the Ministry of Education begins the process of distributing the funding.

On Monday, the same day the priorities were released, 14 members of Congress called US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona provide states with “comprehensive guidance” to ensure bipartisan Safe Communities Act funding is used to create evidence-based programs. Lawmakers called the funding a “unique opportunity.”

The legislation, passed in the wake of the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, includes more than $1 billion for school improvement and school mental health services, in addition to other funds for schools.

In the letter, members of the United States House of Representatives wrote that the Department of Education should provide funding “serves students, schools, and communities fairly and effectively.” They called on the ministry to “Help states and districts use these funds in the spirit of ESSA and support the schools and students who need it most.”

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