APA worked closely with the office of Rep. David Trone (D-MD), to draft the Comprehensive Mental Health in Schools Pilot Program Act (H.R. 3549), which would provide resources for low-income schools to develop a holistic approach to student well-being by building, implementing, and evaluating comprehensive school-based mental health service programs. The bill, which is based in-part on recommendations developed in collaboration with APA’s Advocacy Office and APA’s Coalition for Psychology in Schools and Education (PDF, 604KB), would also include training for educators and other school staff on how to integrate social and emotional learning and evidence-based, trauma-informed practices into all aspects of the school environment. 

“The Comprehensive Mental Health in Schools Pilot Program Act recognizes the importance of fostering positive, equitable classroom environments and that the relationship among the cognitive, social and emotional, and academic development of children is interactive,” said APA CEO Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD. “APA commends Representative Trone for introducing this legislation, which acknowledges the role that psychological science plays in both student learning and mental health. By providing training for educators and other school staff on evidence-based, trauma-informed practices, the bill would ensure that the psychological well-being of students is the responsibility of the entire school community. This will be even more necessary as students return to classrooms following a year of stress, uncertainty, and social isolation.”

APA has also endorsed bipartisan, bicameral legislation introduced by Reps. Judy Chu (D-Calif) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to grow the mental health workforce in school settings. The Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act (H.R. 3572/S. 1811) would expand mental health services in low-income schools by supporting partnerships between institutions of higher education and local education agencies to increase the number of school-based mental health professionals, including psychologists. The bill would also incentivize mental health providers to serve in under-resourced schools by providing student loan forgiveness to those who commit to doing so for at least 5 years.

“The American Psychological Association applauds Representatives Chu and Fitzpatrick, and Senator Tester for introducing this legislation that would help ensure that a strong school-based mental health workforce is ready to address the well-being of all students as they return to classrooms,” said Evans. “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.”

For more information, contact Kenneth Polishchuk.