Washington, D.C. – Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and Congresswoman Susan Wild (PA-07) introduced the Mental Health in Schools Excellence Program Act. This legislation addresses the critical shortage of mental health professionals, like school psychologists, social workers, and counselors. Specifically, authorization is granted to establish partnerships between the Department of Education and eligible graduate programs to cover up to 100 percent of attendance costs for students who complete five years of service as a school-based mental health service provider.
“Ensuring students have access to mental health resources is vital to their current and future success, along with that of their peers,” said Fitzpatrick. “With only 20 percent of American youth receiving the mental health services they need, further action must be taken to expand access to services in schools.”
“As a country, we have to begin taking mental health concerns seriously, and schools often serve on the front lines of supporting our young people when they are most in need,” said Wild. “This bipartisan bill would address the critical shortage of mental health professionals and expand access to school based mental health services so that every student has an equal chance to succeed.”
Fitzpatrick has made school safety a top priority during his time in Congress. In May, he introduced the bipartisan Suicide and Threat Assessment Nationally Dedicated to Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act of 2019 to encourage schools to expand evidence-based suicide prevention training to students in grades 6 through 12.
Wild has made our country’s mental health challenges a top priority. She co-leads a bill to address the growing number of students in higher education with mental health concerns, the Higher Education Mental Health Act of 2019, and is a member of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus.
What They’re Saying:
“Schools play a critical role in meeting the mental and behavioral health needs of children and youth, which are reaching a crisis point” said Leslie Z. Paige, President of the National Association of School Psychologists. “Unfortunately, we are facing a shortage of school-employed mental health providers, which is impeding schools’ ability to meet the growing need. We applaud Representatives Fitzpatrick and Wild for their leadership in introducing legislation that will help increase the pool of professionals appropriately trained to support our children’s learning and mental health in schools.”
“As I enter my 23rd year as a school psychologist, two significant issues that confront my profession and weigh on our educational system are the growing mental health and wellness needs of students while we face a national shortage of individuals in the field of school psychology to address the growing needs,” said Nationally Certified School Psychologist Julia Szarko. “Every day I live this difficult reality as my colleagues and I try desperately to meet the needs of our students, while our ratios are well over the recommended caseloads. I fully support the Mental Health in Schools Excellence Program Act of 2019 and the pathway the legislation will create to recruit, train, and deliver greatly needed school mental health personnel, including school psychologists to our Nation’s schools.”