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Shaheen Joins Legislation to Increase Mental Health Resources in Schools as Surgeon General Sounds the Alarm on Crisis

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in introducing the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act, legislation that would greatly boost the availability of mental health resources in America’s public schools.

Mental illness affects one in five – 20 percent – of American youth, and just this week, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued a new Surgeon General’s Advisory stressing the urgent and critical need to address the country’s youth mental health crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bicameral legislation will put additional mental health providers in elementary and secondary schools across America.

“The pandemic put unprecedented pressure on children across the country, forcing them to adapt to challenging virtual learning and isolation during formative years,” said Senator Shaheen. “Social and emotional support is critical to ensure our students can succeed, especially as they grapple with the unfamiliarity of returning to schools. I’m proud to support this effort to invest in psychologists, social workers and counselors in schools to create safe and healthy environments for students.”

The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act would establish five-year renewable grant programs for elementary and secondary schools to hire additional mental health professionals in schools. A copy of the legislation can be found here.

Shaheen is a leader in the Senate working to shine light on the mental health crisis during the pandemic. Over the summer, she visited the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester to discuss the needs and challenges facing the area as it addresses the mental health crisis. She also hosted a virtual discussion with New Hampshire stakeholders and advocates to discuss the youth and teen mental health epidemic facing the state. To highlight the need to address teen mental health challenges, Shaheen invited Maureen O’Dea, President of the New Hampshire School Counselors Association and Director of School Counseling at Londonderry High School, as her virtual guest to President Biden’s joint address to Congress. Shaheen has fought to secure funding for mental health care and substance misuse services during the pandemic, including $4.25 billion in funding through December’s emergency COVID relief legislation and nearly $4 billion through the American Rescue Plan. Additionally, she introduced the National ACERT Grant Program Authorization Act, which would provide federal resources for communities to address adverse childhood experiences associated with exposure to trauma.