Last updated June 28, 2022
Mental Health Services for Students Act of 2021 (H.R.721/S.1841)
The Mental Health Services for Students Act of 2021 expands the scope of the Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education (AWARE) program to help fund the development of school-based mental health programs and services through the collaborative partnership between education agencies, community-based providers of behavioral health care services, school staff, community organizations, families, and school-aged youth. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), who oversees the AWARE grant, will set guidelines to receive funding, distribute funding, and then evaluate the outcomes of funded programs.
The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support in May 2021. It has since been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), where no further action has been taken. Unlike the House, it’s companion bill in the Senate has yet to receive bipartisan support with Democrats as the only co-sponsors. The main sponsor of the Senate bill, Sen. Tina Smith, sits on the HELP Committee as well as 2 out of the 10 co-sponsors.
Mental Health Matters Act (H.R. 7780)
The Mental Health Matters Act aims “to support the behavioral needs of students and youth, invest in the school-based behavioral health workforce, and ensure access to mental health and substance use disorder benefits.” The applicable sections of the bill provide funding to (1) increase the number of mental health professionals serving elementary and secondary schools in high-need areas and (2) enhance access to evidence-based trauma-informed support and mental health services in schools.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier and co-sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott, Del Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, and Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick – all of whom sit on the House Committee on Education and Labor. Two days after the bill was introduced, May 18, 2022, the committee voted it out of committee. The bill is pending a vote before the entire chamber. Currently, the bill does not have a companion version in the Senate.
Improving Mental Health Access for Students Act (S.1585/H.R.2914)
The Improving Mental Health Access for Students Act “requires institutions of higher education (IHEs) that participate in federal student-aid programs to share contact information for suicide prevention resources with students. If IHEs distribute student identification cards, then they must include on the cards phone numbers for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the Crisis Text Line, and a campus mental-health center or program. If IHEs do not create such cards, then they must publish the numbers on their websites.”
The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support on May 12, 2021. The House version of the bill is identical and is pending before the Committee on Education and Labor, where it was assigned after being introduced in April 2021. The House bill has bipartisan support (2 Democrats and 1 Republican), though neither the sponsor nor cosponsors sit on the Education and Labor Committee.
If enacted, this bill will provide funding to “increase the recruitment and retention of school-based mental health service providers.” Eligible graduate institutions will receive matching funds from the Department of Education to “cover a portion of the cost of attendance” for a student who is “enrolled in a graduate degree program in a school-based mental health field.”
The House bill was introduced in June 2021 and is sponsored by 1 Republication and co-sponsored by 17 Democrats. The Senate bill was introduced in March 2022 and is sponsored by a Democrat and co-sponsored by 2 Republicans and 1 Democrat.
Comprehensive Mental Health in Schools Pilot Program Act of 2021 (S.2730/ H.R.3549)
The Comprehensive Mental Health in Schools Pilot Program Act “requires the Department of Education to establish a pilot program to award grants to local educational agencies for establishing comprehensive mental and behavioral health services programs in elementary and secondary schools.” The bill outlines several requirements for schools receiving funds. They must institute multi-tier interventions, social emotional learning, restorative practices, and racially, culturally, developmentally, and linguistically responsive teaching. The bill prioritizes funding for schools serving predominately low-income students.
The Senate bill was introduced in September 2021 and is sponsored by 4 Democrats. The bill was assigned to the Senate HELP Committee. The House bill was introduced in May 2021 and is sponsored by 13 Democrats and 3 Republicans. The bill was assigned to the House Education and Labor Committee.
Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act (H.R.3572/ S.1811)
The Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act “directs the Department of Education (ED) to establish a grant program and a student loan forgiveness program to increase the number of school-based mental health services providers in elementary and secondary schools.” The bill provides funding for (1) “partnerships between educational agencies and graduate institutions to increase the number of school-based mental health services providers employed by low-income local educational agencies (LEAs)” and (2) a student loan forgiveness program for those providers who are employed by LEAs for five or more consecutive years.
In the House, the bill was introduced in May 2021 and is pending before the Committee on Education and Labor. It has 37 co-sponsors, with 36 Democrats and 1 Republican. In the Senate, the bill was also introduced in May 2021 and is pending before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. It is only sponsored by Democrats.
Advancing Student Services In Schools Today (ASSIST) Act (S.3704/H.R.7672)
The ASSIST Act “requires the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to, among others, local educational agencies to increase the number of mental health and substance use disorder care providers in schools and school-based health centers. It also increases the federal government’s share of Medicaid costs for behavioral health services furnished in those settings.”
The Senate bill was introduced in February 2022 and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. It is sponsored by 5 Democrats. The House bill was introduced in May 2022 and referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. It is sponsored by 1 Democrat.