Nearly forty percent of youth who needed mental health care between 2011-12 didn’t receive the necessary treatment, according to the Children’s Defense Fund’s 2014 State of America’s Children report. For families living in poverty, that number reached 45 percent, and for black and Latino children, it was 55 and 46 percent, respectively.
But schools may soon have more resources to change that.
In addition to shaking up standardized testing rules, the Every Student Succeeds Act, the nation’s new federal education law—the successor to No Child Left Behind—includes funding for schools to invest in the mental and behavioral health of their students.
The new law authorizes grants to the tune of $1.6 billion. School districts that serve the highest concentration of students living in poverty will be eligible for the most funding, at least 20 percent of which must be spent on mental and behavioral health services per district. No Child Left Behind had a narrower focus on mental health needs—namely through the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program—which was a competitive grant awarded to select school districts.
“We do a lot of work with superintendents and principals, and they want it. They all say they want more [mental health] services,” said Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, director of government and professional relations at the National Association of School Psychologists. “I’m hopeful that some of this decreased focus on the importance of standardized tests may alleviate some of these challenges because principals might feel that they’re actually able to dedicate some more time during their school day to student wellness.”