WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Judy Chu (CA-27) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act. This legislation would establish a grant program to increase the number of mental health professionals at low income schools by supporting partnerships between institutions of higher education and local education agencies to support teaching, training, and employment of school counselors, social workers, and psychologists.
Professionals that participate in these partnerships would be eligible for student loan forgiveness after 5 years of employment at a low income school. Rep. Chu, one of two psychologists in Congress, and Sen. Nelson released the following statements:
“It is clear that our schools need more resources to adequately provide for the mental health of our students. Right now, far too many mental health problems go undiagnosed and untreated because our schools lack the funding and staff needed to spot and address a problem early on,” said Rep. Chu. “But beyond our basic obligation to ensure the health of our students, this problem is also taking on new urgency as the scourge of mass shootings in schools becomes more and more common.
“First, I want to be clear on two important points: people struggling with mental health problems are far more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators of it. And America’s gun violence epidemic is caused by contributing factors such as our weak gun laws. But, in addition to strengthening our country’s gun laws, greater access to mental health professionals can make a profound difference in students’ lives.
“This legislation aims to put more qualified professionals in schools that wouldn’t otherwise be able to support them, and also encourages more people to enter psychology and counseling as a career by defraying some costs in exchange for their service to our communities. This is a smart bill. It helps students, school districts, and the mental health services professions. All while meeting an urgent need. I’m grateful for Senator Nelson’s work to introduce this bill in the Senate and I hope to see it receive consideration in both chambers of Congress.”
“We can’t allow what happened in Parkland and in Texas to become the new normal in this country,” said Sen. Nelson. “We have to do more to protect our kids in school and ensure that any student who needs mental health services is able to get them.”
The bill is supported by the American Psychological Association. A copy of the bill text can be found here.