House Passes Bill Addressing Mental Health Issues Among Students, Families and Educators

House Passes Bill Addressing Mental Health Issues Among Students, Families and Educators

The House on Thursday passed a bill that aims to address the mental health issues of students, families and educators made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, which lawmakers say has had a “serious impact” on those three groups.

The bill, titled The Mental Health Matters Act, passed in a majority partisan vote 220-205. A Republican, Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania), joined all Democrats present in support.

The legislation, if passed by the Senate and signed into law, would provide grants to establish a pipeline for school mental health service professionals. Additionally, it would increase the number of mental health experts in elementary and secondary schools based in high-needs locations.

The measure would oblige the Ministry of Education to allocate these subsidies.

The Department of Education would also be required to administer grants to state educational agencies to recruit and retain school mental health service providers in public elementary and secondary schools deemed to have high needs.

The passage of the bill comes about two and a half years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has spread mental health issues.

The World Health Organization revealed in March that in the first year of the pandemic, the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide increased by around 25%.

The KIDS COUNT 2022 data book, which was released in August, found that around 1.5 million children in the United States suffered from depression or anxiety throughout the first year of the pandemic.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-California), the bill’s sponsor, said his legislation was needed to address the ripple effect that mental health issues are having on schools and educators.

“Educators have been forced to play an outsized role in supporting and addressing students’ mental health needs, which has led to an increase in depression and trauma among educators, their students, families and the community. However, our schools lack the specialist staff needed to respond to the increased prevalence and complexity of student mental health needs,” he said.

“Put simply, the Mental Health Matters Act provides the resources students, educators and families need to improve their well-being,” DeSaulnier added.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC), the top Republican on the Education and Labor Committee, said “the country would be better off without” the soil legislation.

She specifically challenged the provision that allows the Secretary of the Labor Department to impose civil monetary penalties on plan sponsors and group health plan administrators if they fail to meet mental health parity requirements.

” Provide [the Department of Labor] with the power to impose civil monetary penalties on plans and increase their risk of litigation will only force plans to drop mental health coverage,” Foxx explained.

“That money would be better spent on compliance assistance instead of targeting employers based on ambiguous standards,” she added.

The legislation also requires disability accommodations to be available to incoming students at higher education institutions if they have documentation outlining their disability, and it establishes a grant program to strengthen student access to services. evidence-based trauma and mental health support through projects that connect schools. and local educational agencies with trauma-informed support and mental health systems.

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