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SSWAA Action Alert

9 Mar 2020 7:43 AM | Rachel Meffe (Administrator)

Ask Your Representatives to SIGN the "Dear Colleague Letter" for $$ for MH Demonstration and Personnel Grants!

BACKGROUND:  In both Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and FY 2020 (the current federal fiscal year), Congress directed the Department of Education to set aside up to $10 million to development and implement a Mental Health Demonstration Grant to help improve the pipeline of school-based mental health providers to high-need school districts. Recognizing the increased need for school-based mental health services, in FY 2020, Congress provided an additional $10 million for a new grant competition which would provide awards to states and local school districts, or consortia of school districts to increase the number of qualified, well-trained school counselors, social workers, psychologists, or other mental health professionals providing school-based MH services to students.  The call for applications is expected in the near future. Combined, these two competition grants address the critical shortage of school-based mental health professionals in two distinct and essential ways: by increasing the available workforce, and by helping districts support increased positions to improve access to services.
 

Current Activity:  Two House members – Representatives Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) – are leading the effort to get other House members to sign a letter asking the House Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Subcommittee (the funding subcommittee) to include a $10 million increase to $115 million for Safe Schools National Activities.  $10 million would be explicitly designated for MH Demonstration Grants and MH Personnel Grants.

 

We need YOU to help get YOUR Representative to sign this letter asking for specific funds for these programs.  DEADLINE FOR REPRESENTATIVES TO SIGN ON: Close of Business on March 10.

 

TAKE ACTION:  CALL your representatives.  Ask your Representatives to sign the "Dear Colleague" letter.  PLEASE CALL, rather than emailing.  Ask for the legislative assistant who handles Education; if not available, leave the message with the receptionist. [NOTE:  USE your private cell phones only, please!]

 

If you don't know who your senators or representatives are, go to www.congress.gov, and look on the right-hand column where it says "Contact Your Member."  Put in your zip code under the "House of Representatives" link or the "Senate" link to find your members and how to contact them directly.  You will also be linked to their websites and telephone numbers (or just Google them!).

 

HERE'S WHAT TO SAY:

"As a constituent and a school social worker in (city/county/school district), I urge you sign the 'Dear Colleague' letter led by Representatives Wexton and Fitzpatrick.

•    The letter asks for an increase in FY 2021 for School Safety National Activities, including $10 million designated specifically for the Mental Health Demonstration grant, so the Department of Education can conduct a new grant competition for the next school year.
•    These grants are critical to helping high-need school districts address the shortage of school mental professionals – including school social workers, counselors, and psychologists – to high-need districts.

 

[INSERT PERSONAL STORY from your district about why we need MORE SSW, if you get a chance!]

 

•    As your constituent, I urge you to ACT NOW and sign this important letter!   The deadline is March 10.  Thank you!"

 

The ‘Dear Colleague’ letter is below for your reference.



Bipartisan Support for School-Based Mental Health Grants in FY21
Sending Office: Honorable Jennifer Wexton
Sent By: Courtney.Rogers@mail.house.gov 

 

Bipartisan Support for School-Based Mental Health Grants in FY21
*This is a programmatic and report language request*

 

Dear Colleagues:

 

We invite you to sign the letter below requesting $115 million for the Safe Schools National Activities Programs, which includes a $10 million increase for the Mental Health Demonstration Grant and the Mental Health Personnel Grant to address the shortage of school-based mental health professionals. This increase will be a positive step towards connecting students with the comprehensive mental and behavioral supports needed for their academic, social, emotional, and physical success.


The American School Counselor Association and the School Social Work Association of America both recommend a ratio of one school counselor and one school social worker for every 250 students, while the National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of one school psychologist for every 500-700 students. According to a 2019 report, only two states and one US territory meet the recommended student to mental health professional ratios, which is unacceptable.


These school-based mental health professionals provide critical mental and behavioral health services to students. They support our students’ social-emotional learning, develop and implement trauma-informed practices, support violence prevention efforts, including bullying and suicide prevention, and promote safe and supportive school climates. School-based mental health professionals have been known to improve the academic learning and overall well-being of our students, and it is imperative that Congress continues to provide robust investments in grant programs that foster these positive outcomes for students. 


We hope you join us in urging the House Appropriators to include a $10 million increase for the Safe Schools National Activities Program, with $10 million provided explicitly for new competitions of the Mental Health Demonstration Grant and the Mental Health Personnel Grant. Please fill out this FORM by COB Tuesday, March 10, 2020, to sign on, and contact Courtney Rogers with Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton at Courtney.Rogers@mail.house.gov or (202) 225-5136 or Michael McCabe with Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick at Michael.McCabe@mail.house.gov or (202) 225-4276 with any questions. 

 


Dear Chairwoman DeLauro and Ranking Member Cole:


As you develop the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 appropriations bill for the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, we encourage you to help decrease the high student-to-counselor ratios in our nation’s schools by addressing the shortage of school-based mental health professionals like school psychologists, school counselors, and school social workers. We ask that you fund the Safe Schools National Activities Program at $115 million dollars to allow for a new competition in two grant programs critical to addressing the shortage of school mental health professionals and increasing access to these vital school-based services. This funding level represents a $10 million dollar increase over FY20 levels.


The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (SDFSCA) was previously authorized as a national discretionary grant program focused on drug, violence, and bullying prevention and school-based mental health services. For more than a decade, only the national programs have been funded. Now referred to as School Safety National Activities (SSNA), these funds are used for state and local school safety and violence prevention activities in grades K-12 and in institutions of higher education.


There is currently a shortage of school-based mental health professionals in our country.  National mental health organizations recommend a ratio of one school counselor and one school social worker for every 250 students, and a ratio of one school psychologist for every 500-700 students, respectively. Unfortunately, across each profession, the national ratio is more than double the recommendation, with some states faring even worse.  As a result, there has been an increase in bullying and suicide amongst our nation’s students, and many have limited or no access to mental health services.


In both FY19 and FY20, Congress directed the Department of Education to set aside up to $10 million to development and implement a Mental Health Demonstration Grant to help improve the pipeline of school-based mental health providers to high need school districts. Recognizing the increased need for school-based mental health services, in FY20, Congress provided an additional $10 million for a new competition which would provide awards to SEAs, LEAs, or consortia of LEAs to increase the number of qualified, well-trained counselors, social workers, psychologists, or other mental health professionals that provide school-based mental health services to students.  The call for applications is expected in the near future. Combined, these two competition grants address the critical shortage of school-based mental health professionals in two distinct and essential ways: by increasing the available workforce, and by helping districts support increased positions to improve access to services.


Schools National Activities Program must be directed toward new competitions of the Mental Health Demonstration Grant and the Mental Health Personnel Grant:


With the goal of addressing the shortage of school-based mental health professionals in our nation’s K-12 schools by expanding the pipeline of these professionals and improving districts’ ability to recruit and retrain these professionals, the Committee directs the Secretary to allocate $10 million dollars for additional competitions of the Mental Health Demonstration Grant and the Mental Health Personnel Grant to increase the number of well-trained school counselors, social workers, and psychologists, or other mental health professionals qualified to provide school-based mental health services.


Integrating mental health services in schools has helped both students and staff succeed by addressing issues such as bullying, self-esteem, and suicide while improving the school’s capacity to identify, refer, and provide services to help students in need. School-based mental health professionals have been proven to improve staff retention, help keep students in school, and promote learning environments where students feel safe, supported, and ready to learn.


In order to support the increased need for comprehensive mental and behavioral health services, and the availability of school-based mental health professionals, we must continue to provide robust federal investments to help high needs districts recruit and retain well-trained, highly qualified mental health professionals.  For these reasons, we urge Congress to fund the Safe Schools National Activities Program at $115 million, with $10 million specifically provided for new competitions in these critical grant programs.


Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to working with you to make sure students in every community are supported to reach their maximum potential.
 
Sincerely,
 
Jennifer Wexton                                                         Brian Fitzpatrick
Member of Congress                                                  Member of Congress


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