Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013

National PTA has endorsed the Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013. If enacted, this legislation would increase access to mental health services and supports for students and families.  The bill was introduced in the Senate yesterday and will follow in the House of Representatives next week.  PTA strongly advocates for a comprehensive approach to improved school safety. We addressed gun violence in a previous blog and now follow with our belief that access to mental health services is also key to combating and preventing school violence.


One in five youth in the United States experience mental illness; 70 percent of adolescents with mental health problems do not receive care. Over the last two decades, suicide rates have doubled among Americans between the ages of 10 and 14 and 405 of currently unemployed parents say they have seen behavioral changes in their children due to their unemployment.

We know how to address these terrible facts. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, behavioral and emotional problems decreased among 31 percent of youth with mental health issues after 6 months of receiving mental health care. Within one year of entering a mental health program, both grades and school attendance of youth increased significantly. In addition, the number of students involved in violent incidents decreased by 15 percent within three years of a school implementing a mental health program. But despite comprehensive evidence showing the importance of access to mental health and substance use disorder services, many students struggle to access the care they need.

THE PROBLEM. School staff can play an important role in helping to identify and support children with mental health problems. In a time of tight state budgets, too often support services such as those provided by school counselors end up on the chopping block. The American School Counselor Association recommends employing one school counselor for every 250 students, however, in the 2010-2011 school year, the national average was only one counselor for every 471 students.

THE ACT will:
  •  Expand access to mental health services in schools.
  •  Establish a grant program to support schools that work with community-based organizations to expand access to mental health services for students and provide assistance to schools to train staff, volunteers, families, and other members of the community to recognize the signs of behavioral health problems in students and refer them for appropriate services.
  • SAMHSA will develop standardized quality measures and participating schools are required to collect and submit data on their programs and outcomes.
  • Authorizes $200 million in grant funding per year over five years, and eligible schools may apply for up to $1 million per grant year, based on the size of their student population. 
National PTA President Betsy Landers states: ’The time for legislative action to improve access to mental health supports in our nation's schools is now, and we urge enactment of the Mental Health in Schools Act of 2013.” Sign up and Take Action  

Thank you for your advocacy!

Lana Ajemian, President
Reflect the past, Transform today, Inspire tomorrow!