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How do we get more mental health counselors in schools?

On Behalf of | Aug 15, 2022 | Education Law

The last couple of years have been taxing for kids’ mental health. The pandemic, isolation, online schooling and other issues have disrupted kids’ lives, their learning and their relationships. Now, over 40% of teenagers report struggling with persistent sadness or hopelessness.

Due to this “unprecedented mental health crisis” among young people, the federal government recently announced almost $300 million in grant programs meant to help schools recruit and hire more licensed mental health professionals.

According to data examined by the Pew Research Center, only 55% of American public schools even evaluate students’ mental health or offer diagnostic mental health assessments conducted by licensed mental health professionals.

Even fewer – 42% — of public K-12 schools in the U.S. offer mental health treatment, either in or out of school.

Those statistics have been getting slightly better. In the 2017-2018 school year, only 51% of public schools offered mental health assessments and only 38% offered treatment.

Which schools are more likely to offer mental health services?

The data indicate that kids are most likely to get mental health services at a larger, urban or suburban middle or high school.

For example, in the 2019-2020 school year:

  • Around 65% of middle and high schools offered assessments, while only half of elementary schools did.
  • 71% of schools with an enrollment of 1,000 or more students offered assessments, as opposed to only 43% of those with less than 300 students.
  • Around 60% of urban and suburban schools offered assessments, compared to 43% of rural schools.
  • In schools where 75% of the students were ethnic minorities, 60% offered assessments, compared to half of the schools were only 25% of the students or less were ethnic minorities.

What is limiting access now?

According to the Pew Research Center, educators responded to a survey asking what prevented them, if anything, from providing mental health assessments and treatment to students. The most common answers were:

  • Inadequate funding
  • Lack of access to enough licensed mental health professionals
  • Policy issues regarding payment
  • Potential legal issues
  • Concerns about parents’ reactions
  • Reluctance to “label” students and stigmatize them
  • Lack of community support

What does the law require?

If your child cannot access their education due to their mental health needs, you should request a Section 504 or IDEA eligibility assessment.

Leigh Law Group represents students in education law cases throughout California.

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