May 16, 2023

Young, Shaheen, Cramer Reintroduce Legislation to Address Shortage of Mental Health Providers in Schools

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) reintroduced the bipartisan Mental Health Excellence in Schools Act to address the shortage of mental health providers in schools by boosting the pipeline of graduate students trained to become school psychologists, counselors, and social workers responding to the youth mental health crisis that was worsened by the pandemic. More specifically, this legislation would authorize the Department of Education to partner with higher education institutions to help cover students’ costs at relevant graduate programs.

“Providing Hoosier students with access to mental health resources will help improve the safety, well-being, and academic success of our students,” said Senator Young. “The Mental Health Excellence in Schools Act will both support the school-based mental health workforce and address the critical need for these professionals.” 

“Our nation is facing a mental health crisis that’s uniquely impacting our young people. To ensure students have access to the care they need, we must ensure access to the mental health professionals in schools to meet kids where they are and assist students dealing with any challenges they may be facing. Unfortunately, we don’t have a strong pipeline of mental health providers, leaving many kids and teenagers vulnerable and without the help they need,” said Senator Shaheen. “The Mental Health in Schools Excellence Act will help ensure students have access to the support services they need.”  

“Like so many fields across the state, there simply aren’t enough school-based mental health professionals. Ensuring our kids’ well-being and academic success should be our first priority,” said Senator Cramer. “Our bill will alleviate the financial strain of earning a graduate degree by encouraging more practitioners to work in schools across the state.”

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) recommends a ratio of one school psychologist per 500 students. However, the national average ratio is estimated to be approximately one school psychologist per 1,200 students, with wide variation among states. 

The Mental Health Excellence in Schools Act seeks to increase the recruitment and retention of mental health services providers in schools. The legislation creates a program for the Department of Education to partner with eligible graduate institutions to cover up to the full cost of school-based mental health graduate programs for students at eligible institutions.

U.S. Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01) and Jared Golden (D-ME-02) are leading a companion version of this bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Over 38 percent of America’s school students do not have adequate access to comprehensive mental health resources,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “As co-chair of the Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force, I am proud to introduce the Mental Health in Schools Excellence Act to ensure that students have access to the mental health services they need to flourish.” 

“Students of all ages in Maine and across the country are facing significant challenges to their mental health,” said Congressman Jared Golden. “We must ensure that our public schools have the resources that they need to help these students. I’m proud to join my colleagues in the House and Senate in pushing to address shortages of school mental health professionals by introducing this bill to help cover the attendance costs to attain graduate degrees in school psychology.” 

The legislation has been endorsed by the National Association of School Psychologists, the American School Counselor Association, the School Social Work Association of America, the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association. 

“Schools play a critical role in meeting the mental and behavioral health needs of children and youth. Equipping schools to meet the mental and behavioral health needs of students must be a top priority as we address the ongoing youth mental health crisis,” said NASP President, Dr. Celeste Malone. “Unfortunately, we are facing a shortage of school psychologists and other school-based mental health providers, which is impeding schools’ ability to meet the growing needs of students and their families. We applaud Senators Shaheen, Young, and Cramer and Congressmen Fitzpatrick and Golden for their leadership in introducing legislation that will help increase the pool of professionals appropriately trained to support our children’s learning and mental health in schools.”