U.S. Department of Education Initiates Enrollment for Two K-12 Mental Health Programs to Expand School-based Mental Health Services

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) has initiated the application process for the School-Based Mental Health and Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration grant competitions. These grants aim to enhance the pool of mental health professionals serving in schools and increase student access to school-based mental health services and support.

President Biden has identified addressing the mental health crisis, particularly among young people, as a crucial focus in his Unity Agenda for the nation. These programs align with the Administration’s objectives to double the supply of qualified mental health professionals in schools. The newly opened applications mark progress following the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to advance the integration of mental health services into schools as part of the President’s National Mental Health Strategy. Amidst a growing demand for mental health services in schools nationwide, the Department anticipates approximately $38 million in funding available across both competitions in Fiscal Year 2024, pending appropriations.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona emphasizes the urgent need to address youth mental health challenges, stating, “Youth mental health needs have reached a crisis point, and help is available in our public schools.” The grant competitions launched by the Department aim to enhance mental health support in schools, nurture a pipeline of mental health professionals, and elevate the standard of meeting students’ comprehensive needs. These grants have the potential to transform students’ lives by facilitating easier access to essential services.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, youth were already experiencing elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Mental health and wellness significantly impact students’ overall well-being, academic performance, and other outcomes. School-based settings are crucial for providing services to young individuals facing mental health challenges. The continued support from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and ongoing funding initiatives can create a robust mental health infrastructure in schools and communities nationwide, positively impacting students’ lives.

The MHSP grants support efforts to train school-based mental health service providers to address shortages in schools. These grants prioritize increasing diversity among mental health professionals, promoting inclusivity, and fostering partnerships with various educational institutions. Additionally, high-need LEAs can receive funding through SBMH to bolster the number of mental health professionals and services in schools, particularly in underserved communities.

Under the Biden-Harris Administration, over $571 million has been allocated to strengthen the pipeline of school-based mental health professionals across 264 grantees in 48 states and territories. These investments are projected to train and hire an additional 14,000 mental health professionals to support students’ mental health needs. Such initiatives contribute to the larger goals of the National Mental Health Strategy, aiming to increase the number of mental health professionals in schools.

Notices Inviting Applications, detailing the application requirements, have been published on the Federal Register. Applications for SBMH can be found here, with a deadline of April 30, 2024, while applications for MHSP are available here, due on May 15, 2024.

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