WASHINGTON – On January 29th, 2023, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) and U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) introduced the Expanding Access to Mental Health Services in Schools Act, legislation to address the urgent need for mental health professionals in schools.

In 2021, almost 15% of children in the United States ages 5 to 17 received treatment for mental health, 8% had taken medication, and nearly 12% participated in therapy or counseling, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Children deserve easy access to child-centered and trauma-informed mental health services. We must meet them where they are – in schools. Having qualified health professionals readily available for students improves academic outcomes and plays a key role in healthy development,” said Congresswoman Jahana Hayes. “The funding provided by this legislation would sharply increase the number of mental health professionals in schools who are able both address crisis and offer preventive care.”

“I was inspired to create the School Based Mental Health Services Grants program after my countless conversation with Connecticut parents, educators, and district leaders who highlighted the urgent need for additional mental health professionals in schools,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The program was bolstered under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act with a $500 million investment over the next five years to expand the program’s reach. Now, it is time to maintain the momentum we have made in our efforts to ensure every child goes to a school with a qualified mental health professional in the building. I am proud to introduce the Expanding Access to Mental Health Services in Schools Act to further that goal.”

“The number of mental health professionals in schools, including school counselors, social workers, and psychologists, does not meet the threshold needed to provide the comprehensive care our students deserve,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “As Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force, I am proud to join Congresswoman DeLauro in introducing bipartisan legislation which addresses the shortages of mental health professionals in schools, and appropriately funds resources for tackling the mental health crisis in our nation.”

Under the School Based Mental Health Services Grants program, awards are made to school districts and states to directly increase the number of these vital mental health professionals, including school counselors, social workers, psychologists, or other mental health professionals qualified to provide school-based mental health services.

Congresswoman Hayes, a career educator and 2016 National Teacher of the Year, previously introduced the Supporting Trauma-Informed Education Practices Act to bolster trauma support services and mental health care for children in schools. The legislation was included in the Mental Health Matters Act which passed the House in 2022.