Impact as of November 2021
As schools reopened for in-person instruction during the fall of 2021, the 2021 summer Education Advocacy Summit proved particularly timely considering the increased recognition of the mental and behavioral needs of students. This is especially evident as advocates were able to successfully secure the introduction of a Senate companion to the Comprehensive Mental Health in Schools Pilot Program Act, as well as increase co-sponsorships for both the Mental Health Services for Students Act and the Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act.
Over 100 psychologists and graduate students from 33 states participated in nearly 150 meetings with members of Congress and their staff on July 26 to advocate for legislation to improve the availability of mental health services in schools. They focused their advocacy on three key pieces of legislation:
- The Mental Health Services for Students Act (PDF, 105KB) (H.R. 721/S. 1841), which takes a public health approach to mental health care by building partnerships between local educational agencies, tribal schools, and community-based organizations.
- The Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act (PDF, 103KB) (H.R. 3572/S. 1811), which 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 Comprehensive Mental Health in Schools Pilot Program Act (PDF, 81KB) (H.R. 3549), which would provide resources for low-income schools to develop comprehensive, school-wide support systems, which would enable them to meaningfully address both their students’ learning and overall well-being, create a more equitable educational experience, and set students up for future success.
The summit began with welcoming remarks from APA President Jennifer F. Kelly, PhD, ABPP, and APA Chief Education officer Catherine Grus, PhD. They both emphasized the importance of student mental health and well-being, particularly as schools begin to return to in-person learning environments.
“Ultimately,” Kelly noted, “this is an issue of educational equity, as data show that students who receive social and emotional instruction and have access to mental health care in schools are also more likely to have positive academic outcomes and more long-term success.”
APA Chief Advocacy Officer Katherine B. McGuire, MS, provided an overview of the current political landscape and how it may impact congressional meetings. She emphasized some of the achievements from previous Advocacy Summits, including APA priorities receiving increased funding in a recent House appropriations bill.