The Biden administration on Monday announced more than $300 million in new funding for mental health, via prizes and grants, much of the money coming from the bipartisan gun violence law passed by Congress this summer. .
The Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), are deploying approximately $314 million for health professionals in schools and services emergency.
New annual appropriations funds along with the bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) – which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden in June – aim to help create learning environments healthier and safer for children, with the DOE awarding some $280 million in competitive grants to schools to help mental health staff, he said Monday.
The DOE said it is spending $144 million a year for five years on a grant program to increase the number of mental health professionals in schools, plus $143 million a year for five years on a training program. grants to “boost the pipeline of mental health professions” around schools that need it most.
Notices inviting applications for both grant programs will open Monday morning and in the Federal Register on Tuesday.
Roberto Rodríguez, the Department of Education’s assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, touted the spending in major terms — calling the administration’s response to mental health “historic.”
“We’ve never seen an effort of this magnitude relative to the challenge we have around mental health,” Rodríguez told ABC News, adding, “We’ve also never seen this level of investment from the share of the federal level, more specifically in mental health”. health professionals, so we are making a big bet to support, attract, develop and retain our school psychologists, social workers [and] counselors to really work in support of our students. »
HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson said HHS also awarded nearly $27 million for a pediatric mental health access program for emergency department providers — training pediatricians to treat “mental health issues and [provide] teleconsultation to provide support from mental health experts,” the government said – is an important step that will have a “substantial impact”.
Johnson told ABC News that pediatric primary health care providers will receive support and training to analyze mental health issues with the new money. Virtual training sessions with mental health care specialists will help a range of providers, including family physicians, diagnose and treat children before referring them to mental health services, Johnson said.
“[If] that the pediatrician is better equipped to identify mental health issues and treat them, that will make a big difference for this family,” Johnson said. “If your school nurse is better able to identify early mental health issues and get that child referred to the right place, that will make a big difference for the kids too.”
HHS already provides $300,000 per beneficiary in additional resources to most beneficiaries in the state, as well as tribal organizations and Washington, D.C., and nearly $9 million to new beneficiaries through the American Rescue (ARP), officials said.
Johnson stressed that the government believes the new funding will help reduce the burden on families and expand the “reach” of the mental health workforce to help those in need.
“Our goal here is that there is no wrong door for children to be connected to mental health services and for pediatricians to be part of that solution,” Johnson said. ” As part of this project, [one can] call for what we call a teleconsultation line where the project supports, in each of our beneficiaries, a teleconsultation service that allows pediatricians to connect directly with mental health experts. It could be psychiatrists or psychologists, social workers and care navigators who really help bring that mental health expertise into the pediatrician’s office so they can help – in real time – manage the care needs of Mental Health. »
Rodríguez, the assistant secretary of education, said the department’s mental health funding is intended to target school districts in underserved areas.
“We’re looking at communities that have high concentrations of poverty, communities where they may disproportionately lack access,” Rodríguez said. “This doesn’t just include our urban communities – it includes our rural communities as well as suburban communities. What we’ve allowed here is the ability for states to apply on behalf of Local Education Agencies (LEAs) who also need it, so if school districts do not have the capacity to collate requests, states can work closely with school districts to provide a more comprehensive response.”
The administration’s funding commitment comes as various districts have sounded the alarm over their ability to address mental health issues in their schools this year. The most recent report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that mental health professionals are one of the five most understaffed positions reported in schools.
Amid a widespread shortage of educators, Rodríguez said the Department of Education is also focusing on the next generation of mental health professionals by working with higher education programs. These are partnerships between K-12 and colleges and universities, he said, to train providers of school mental health services.
The new spending helps President Biden move closer to his goal of “doubling” the number of mental health professionals in schools. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in an advisory on protecting the mental health of young people that students lost access to teachers, counselors and mental health professionals when COVID-19 measures forced schools to close for in-person learning in 2020 and 2021.
The BSCA, which Biden signed in June, will invest an additional $1 billion over the next five years to support mental health in American schools, according to the White House.