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Reps. Chu, Fitzpatrick, and Sen. Tester Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Increase Access to Mental Health in Schools

May 28, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Representative Judy Chu (CA-27), Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), and Senator Jon Tester (MT) 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. Mental health professionals that are unable to participate in a partnership 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 Rep. Fitzpatrick released the following statements:

 

“As one of only two psychologists in Congress, I know that mental healthcare is no less essential than our physical healthcare,” said Rep. Chu. “And that’s why I have worked to encourage more people to take care of their mental health. And yet, 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. Our students deserve better. That is why I am proud to work with Rep. Fitzpatrick and Sen. Tester to reintroduce the Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act. 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 offering student loan forgiveness in exchange for their service to our communities. This bill will help students, school districts, and the mental health services professions, all while meeting an urgent need. I hope to see it passed soon.”

 

“Ensuring students have access to mental health resources is vital to their current and future success, along with that of their peers,” said Fitzpatrick. “With only 20 percent of American youth receiving the mental health services they need and this lack of access only made worse by the pandemic, further action must be taken to expand access to mental health and counseling services in schools. I am proud to be working with Rep. Chu on this bipartisan legislation to make sure our youth have the access to the resources they need.”


“Now more than ever, it’s critical that our students have access to mental health services in their schools,” said Sen. Tester.  “Teachers and students across Montana—particularly in rural areas—rely on these services as often the only mental health counseling available, and we’ve got to ensure they can access them.  This bill will do just that by incentivizing mental health professionals to work, and stay, in our high-need school districts.” 

 

“Over the past year, the importance of access to mental health supports for our students has been highlighted like never before,” said National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) President Wendy Price, PsyD, NCSP. “Students and educators need access to highly qualified school psychologists and other school-based mental health professionals. The Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act will help more students access better mental and behavioral health care in the setting where it’s most effectively delivered – their schools. NASP is proud to work with Congresswoman Chu, Congressman Fitzpatrick, and Senator Tester on this important legislation that would be a huge step in addressing school psychology shortages and delivering comprehensive mental health care to all students.”

 

“The American Psychological Association applauds Congresswoman Chu for introducing this legislation that would help ensure a strong school-based mental health workforce is ready to address the well-being of all students as they return to classrooms,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association. “Even before the pandemic, the mental and emotional health needs of children were growing. COVID-19 has exacerbated these trends, particularly among traditionally underserved populations, including communities of color. Mental health services in schools will be critical if we are to mitigate pandemic-related learning loss, as well as the trauma many students have experienced. By growing the numbers of mental health providers in low-income school settings, the Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act will be key to these efforts.”

 

The Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act is cosponsored by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Chuy Garcia (D-IL), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Katie Porter (D-CA), Marie Newman (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ann Kuster (D-NH), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)