Illustrated by Anneliese Caposela/Axios
Public school districts that have received large amounts of COVID relief funds for mental health services face a new dilemma. How do we sustain counseling, screening, teletherapy, and other programs when funds run out?
Important reasons: Youth mental health crisis not getting betterand schools are increasingly being called upon to serve as first responders amid rising rates of suicidal ideation, overdoses, and gun violence.
Big picture: Advocates, researchers and administrators have told Axios that schools will struggle to retain qualified mental health personnel when funding expires at the end of the 2024 academic year.
- Not only can you not afford to pay a counselor, but in some areas the problem is so serious that Montana Behavioral Health Alliancethe Medicaid State-approved Coalition of Youth Mental Health Providers.
- “Schools had so many needs, teachers were struggling so much to get out of COVID, and in many ways they just didn’t have enough money,” Windecker told Axios. “Children are deteriorating rapidly from a mental health standpoint.”
- “It is very difficult to prioritize mental health services,” said Sasha Pudelsky, advocacy director for AASA, the Association of Superintendents of Schools. “That doesn’t mean they won’t try…but it’s an ominous challenge.”
News promotion: effective school solutions provide mental health services to schools nationwide, On Thursday, we launched an effort to help districts establish sustainable mental health programs using 13 different funding sources.
- Suggestions include turning to Medicaid Helps cover eligible students Last summer’s bipartisan gun safety legislation tapped a portion of the $1 billion designated for mental health support.
- The new team of former administrators will also act as funding consultants for schools in at least nine states, including New Jersey and California.
- More than half of school administrators surveyed by ESS in December said they needed more information about alternative funding sources. Duncan Young, his CEO of ESS, said the support is fragmented.
Catch up soon: CARES Act of 2020 and Subsequent Spending Bills Designated as Pandemic Relief Contribute a total of $190 billion to the Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund (ESSER) to help school districts step up their investment in mental health support.
- The problem is that the funds expire in September 2024. This puts the school in a “spend or lose” mode with no guaranteed future flow of funds.
- Behavioral health is already facing unprecedented pressure, with a shortage of qualified workers a barrier to care. Almost half of the US population — 47% OR 158 MILLION — LIVE IN MENTAL HEALTH labor shortage Area per KFF.
- More than a third of the spending plans of 5,000 local educational institutions assume that the final batch of ESSER funds expiring next year will be used for mental health workers. analysis Graduated from Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy with a FutureEd.
Be smart: Schools that can’t find mental health professionals or can’t afford to keep them once aid runs out are likely to shift their focus to academic needs to avoid losing money. Pudelski told Axios.
- Phyllis Jordan, Associate Director of FutureEd, said: “For years, teachers and schools have said they needed more mental health support, but they simply didn’t have the money for it. “And all of a sudden there was money for it, but not necessarily someone trained to do it.”
By numbers: More than 60% of public schools report a lack of mental health staff as a barrier to providing mental health services. April survey From the Institute of Educational Sciences.
- Nearly half cite lack of funds as a factor.
- According to the National School Psychologist-to-Student Ratio, there are 1,127 students per psychologist. data From the National Association of School Psychologists. Recommendation is 500 to 1.
What we see: Some advocates are calling on the Department of Education to extend spending deadlines so schools don’t have to shut down mental health services amid growing needs that are unlikely to diminish by next year.
- The Department of Education has not yet notified whether it will allow extensions beyond the 120-day grace period from September 30, 2024.
- A senior government official told Axios that any decision will be made as the expiration date approaches.
Yes, but: Appeals for more mental health funding may also come under scrutiny. conservative bristle To have schools teach social and emotional skills. Some districts allocate relief money in that direction.