WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, along with U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) joined U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), U.S. Representative Katherin Clark (D-Mass.), and 22 other members of Congress to reintroduce the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act, legislation that would greatly boost the availability of mental health providers in America’s public schools. Mental illness affects 20% of American youth. This bicameral legislation will put additional mental health providers in elementary and secondary schools across America.

“Kids spend most of their time in the classroom, so teachers and counselors are often the first people to notice when something is wrong. This funding will help ensure school districts have the personnel and resources they need to identify students going through a tough time or facing a mental health crisis and connect them to the care they urgently need,” said Murphy.

“There is no ignoring the mental health crisis affecting our youth. We know young people are taking their own lives at an accelerating rate, and the decrease in available mental health professionals is only exacerbating this crisis. I have been a long-time proponent for increasing access to school-based mental health providers to support children across the nation.  I am proud to support the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act—legislation that tackles this crisis head on,” said Blumenthal.

“Supporting children in school also means providing resources to support their social and emotional needs. Schools are in desperate need of more mental health providers to ensure we are immediately addressing students in need,” said Hayes. “The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act will help fill vacant school-based mental health provider roles so all students can have access to resources that promote their mental wellbeing and educational success.”

The recommended maximum student-to-counselor ratio is 250 students per counselor, but currently, the national average is 385 students per counselor and continues to rise. For school psychologists, the recommended maximum ratio is 500 students per provider, and 250 to 1 for school social workers. The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act would establish five-year renewable grant programs to help elementary and secondary schools to hire additional school-based mental health providers such as counselors, psychologists, and social workers, ensuring students can receive the mental health care and support they need to achieve their full potential.

Students are 21 times more likely to visit school-based health centers for mental health than community mental health centers, but school districts across America too often lack the resources to provide students with the in-school treatment and care they need and deserve. Furthermore, schools that employ more school-based health providers see improved attendance rates, academic achievement and career preparation, and graduation rates, and lower rates of suspension, expulsion, and other disciplinary incidents.

U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), along with U.S. Representatives Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), and Linda T. Sánchez (D-Calif.) co-sponsored the legislation.

The bill is also endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Mental Health Counselors Association, American Psychological Association, American School Counselor Association, Anxiety & Depression Association of America, Girls Inc., International Society of Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurses, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, National Federation of Families, Postpartum Support International, School Social Work Association of America, and Western Youth Services.