$280 M in Federal Funding Available to Support School Mental Health

The U.S. Department of Education is now accepting applications for two federal grant programs aimed at increasing mental health supports for students. 

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has opened grant applications for two new federal programs to strengthen mental health resources and staff in public schools. USDE published grant requirements in August and noted that that funding would be directly distributed to states and school districts to expand school-based mental health services. Together, the two grants will “encourage states and districts to expand school-based mental health services by increasing, diversifying, recruiting and retaining school mental health staff.”

The two grant programs were authorized by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and were funded in FY 2022 annual appropriations. The two programs, while similar, will prioritize different aspects of funding and providing school mental health resources:

  • The School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program will prioritize “funding for states and districts that plan to recruit and retain mental health service providers, as well as states that respecialize existing social workers, counselors, psychologists or other mental health professionals to serve in schools through training.”
    • For this program, there is $144 million available each year for five years, with an average award size of $1.75 million. USDE estimates making up to 150 awards.
    • These awards will range from $500,000 to $3,000,000 per year.
  • While the Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program will prioritize “projects that partner high-need districts with higher education institutions to train school-based mental health services professionals. It also prioritizes projects that would increase professionals from diverse backgrounds.” According to a press release, “This includes investing in innovative partnerships between school districts and institutions of higher education to prepare qualified school-based mental health services providers for employment in schools. These programs will increase the number of mental health service providers from diverse backgrounds or from the communities they serve, including ensuring access to services for children and youth who are English learners.”
    • For this program, there is $143 million available per year for five years. USDE expects to provide 250 awards will average $800,000, and range from $400,000 to $1,200,000 per year.

Notably, the two grants are separate from the $122 billion in American Rescue Plan Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds that were to help public schools reopen and recover. Some of that funding has been dedicated to school mental health resources and:

experts indicate more than $2 billion has been directed to hire more school psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals in K-12 schools. With the help of these funds, as of July, compared with the pre-pandemic period, the number of school social workers is up 54% and the number of school counselors is up 22%.

USDE will host two technical assistance webinars: one on October 12th, 2022, and one on October 18th, 2022, prior to the application deadline.

Learn more about the the two grant programs.

Read the full USDE press release.

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