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U.S. Department of Education Opens Applications for Two K-12 Mental Health Programs to Increase the Number of Mental Health Providers in Schools

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) opened applications for the School-Based Mental Health and Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration grant competitions to help bolster the pipeline of mental health professionals serving in schools and expand student access to school-based mental health services and supports. 

President Biden named tackling the mental health crisis, particularly among youth, a key pillar in his Unity Agenda for the nation. And, in line with the Administration’s goals, these programs play a key role in doubling the supply of qualified mental health professionals in our nation’s schools. These newly opened applications build on the progress made through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to integrate mental health services into our schools as part of the President’s National Mental Health Strategy. 

 Many school districts across the country are facing an increased need for mental health services for their students, while at the same time, often struggling to find qualified mental health professionals to provide these services. The Administration has continued to request additional funding to sustain and expand efforts nationwide to provide more school-based health services, and pending appropriations the Department anticipates making approximately $38 million available across both competitions in Fiscal Year 2024. 

“Youth mental health needs have reached a crisis point, and help is available in our public schools,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “The grant competitions that the Department is opening today will build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s progress in providing vital mental health supports in our schools, help schools grow a pipeline of mental health professionals, and raise the bar in meeting students’ holistic needs. Most importantly, the funds provided through these grant programs will change students’ lives by making it easier for them to access critical services.” 

Studies show that youth facing mental health challenges are more likely to receive services in a school-based setting. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act presented an unprecedented opportunity to raise the bar for our support of our students, to improve teaching and learning conditions in our schools, to expand access to school-based mental health care, and to scale up and accelerate efforts across the country to train and hire a pipeline of professionals committed to the wellbeing of our students. This continued funding has the potential to meaningfully change lives by building a mental health infrastructure in schools and communities across the country. 

To support the mental health professional pipeline, MHSP grants support local educational agencies in partnership with institutions of higher education, in training school-based mental health services providers, with the goal of expanding the number of these professionals available to address the shortages in schools across the country. This MHSP competition also includes priorities to increase the number of mental health professionals from diverse backgrounds or the districts they serve, promote inclusive practices, and partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and other minority-serving instructions. Through SBMH, high-need LEAs may receive funding to hire and increase the number of mental health professionals and the provision of services in schools. These two programs will help schools raise the bar for student mental health by recruiting, preparing, hiring, and retaining diverse and highly qualified school-based mental health providers, including in underserved communities, where access to mental health services can be limited. 

To date, the Biden-Harris Administration has awarded over $571 million across 264 grantees in 48 states and territories to strengthen the pipeline and increase the number of school-based mental health professionals to serve more high-need populations of students across the country. The 264 grantees supported with these previous investments are projected to help train and hire an additional 14,000 mental health professionals to provide support to students and address their mental health needs. Investments like these help build upon the President’s larger National Mental Health Strategy, which aims to double the number of school counselors, social workers, and other mental health professionals in our nation’s schools. 

Notices Inviting Applications, which outline the requirements to apply, have been posted to the Federal Register. 

Applications for SBMH are online and due on April 30, 2024, and applications for MHSP are online, and due on May 15, 2024. 

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