Since the pandemic began, there has been an increase in suicide rates among young people, particularly Black adolescents. Rates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and depression have also continued to rise as the long-term impact of COVID-19 plays out. Seven of 10 public schools report that the number of students seeking mental health services has increased since 2020. With students back in the structured environment of school, educators are working overtime to meet their behavioral health needs. Fortunately, the federal government has responded with unprecedented levels of support and efforts are underway to help schools put these new or dramatically expanded resources to good use.
The American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) provides more than $122 billion to help pre-K through grade12 students recover from lost time in schools by supporting their mental health, as well as their social, emotional, and academic needs. Additionally, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022 commits more than a billion dollars in the next five years to support schools in addressing youth behavioral health needs, including funding for school mental health workforce. The law also directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education (DOE) to create a technical assistance center that will help states and schools better use Medicaid dollars for school-based services. In July 2022, DOE and HHS issued a joint letter to governors encouraging partnerships at state and local levels and outlining resources to support youth with behavioral health needs.
Some states and school systems offer promising models — for example: