WASHINGTON, DC – Last week, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the bipartisan Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). This bill would authorize the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide direct funding assistance to K-12 school districts for comprehensive student mental health promotion and suicide prevention efforts. This funding is currently available for colleges and universities, but not for K-12 school districts.
- “As a career educator of 24 years and nearly seven of those as a superintendent, I have never experienced such a heartbreaking mental health crisis as we have now among students, staff and families,” said Wayne L. Workman, superintendent of the Lyon County School District in a statement.
- According to a press release, the Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act would allow SAMHSA to support a variety of efforts, including conducting training programs for students and school staff, and utilizing social media applications and telehealth to conduct suicide risk and mental health screenings.
- CCSD has spent a chunk of its federal coronavirus relief money on mental health resources, including spending $761,000 in late 2020 on a platform to monitor data like absences, behavior and academic changes that may be a red flag that something needs to be addressed with a student.
- The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened student mental health challenges that existed before the pandemic, leading to higher rates of student depression, anxiety, and suicide.
- In 2020, schools in Clark County, Nevada reported an increase in student suicides while schools were closed for in-person learning – more than double the rate in 2019.
- “As we’ve seen in Nevada and across the country, this pandemic has exacerbated the existing student mental health crisis – leading to an increase in student anxiety, depression, and suicides, tragically including 20 in the Clark County School District alone,” said Senator Rosen.
- SAMHSA grant funding authorized by the Rosen-Murkowski bill would support a wide range of mental health evaluation, planning, programming, and suicide prevention strategies in K-12 schools.
- The Clark County School District reported 20 student suicides in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Senator Rosen, working with Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, wants to allow the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to provide funding to K-12 school districts.
- “The loss of loved ones, maybe not seeing their grandparents, loss of school, their parents may have lost their job, all of the effects of COVID just made it so hard for our kids,” Rosen said Thursday.
- “Our students deserve the best education we can deliver, including focusing on and addressing their social-emotional and mental health needs,” CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara said in a statement.
- If passed, the Rosen-Murkowski bill would allow SAMHSA to fund school programs for mental health, including suicide prevention strategies, Rosen’s office said.
- The bill, backed by the American Psychological Association and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, would allow SAMHSA to grant funding for programs to train students and school staff on how to promote effective responses to mental health issues and suicide attempts.
- The bill would also support utilizing social media and telehealth to conduct suicide risk and mental health screenings for students. Currently, SAMHSA can only grant such funding to colleges and universities.