Sen. Kennedy introduces student mental health services bill

Sen. Kennedy introduces student mental health services bill

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced into Congress Monday a bill designed to improve mental health services for students in primary and secondary schools.

The Youth Mental Health Services Act would let school districts use money authorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act to fund new mental health resources for students located in their communities rather than at schools. Kennedy said that allowing the resources to be placed outside of the school setting would help reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues.

“It’s a lot harder being a kid in 2020 than when I was growing up. Young people need helping hands and listening ears as they face new social and societal pressures. Kids deserve reliable access to high-quality mental health resources, and the Youth Mental Health Service Act would make it easier for them to get that support in their communities,” Kennedy said.

The bill would also allow states to use Title IV funds to improve existing mental health services. Further, schools could use the money to promote best practices for mental health first aid, improve and execute emergency planning, partner with local health agencies to coordinate services, and to expand telehealth services through private providers.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated one in five children and adolescents experience a mental health problem while they are in school. The department said that students experience stress, anxiety, bullying, family problems, depression, learning disabilities, and alcohol or substance abuse. Additionally, serious mental health issues, such as self-harm and suicide, are rising among young people.

HHS estimates that up to 60 percent of students do not receive the treatment they need due to stigma or lack of access to services.