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H.R. 721: Mental Health Services for Students Act of 2021
Mental Health, we hear about it all the time. Mental health is a driving force in the media, when law enforcement officers in America, engage in a critical incident, involving a subject with “Mental health problems”. Mental health continues to take countless lives, from our Military Veterans, as each day passes. Children in school experienced an extreme disrupt in their daily lives, when they were forced to stay indoors, and attend school through a screen, in the early stages of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Homelessness in America is rising, and the amount of homeless Americans with untreated mental health issues is staggering. We don’t need to see a fact sheet, read a medical journal, or test subjects in a clinical trial, to be cognizant of the amount of persons with unattended mental health disorders, in America. American children’s health should be a priority, they are our future professor’s, philosophers, engineers, doctors, free thinkers; they are the future “Us”.
The Mental Health Services for Students Act of 2021, was introduced by Congresswoman Grace Napolitano. HR 721 passed in the house on May 12th, 2021. HR 721 has 86 cosponsors (82(D) & 4(R)). Since 2001, Congresswoman Napolitano has had this program implemented into 35 schools, which has shown to be extremely helpful (Facts on the Mental Health Services for Students Act, n.d.). With low funds nationally, for on site mental health care professionals in schools, HR 721 would provide additional funding. HR 721 will provide $130,000,000 in competitive grants. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Adminsitration (SAMHSA), would be delegated with distribution of funds. HR 721 would expand on Project AWARE, which is an educational grant. Project AWARE aims at educating and informing families, students, and school faculty about mental health. Project AWARE partners with state mental health agencies, where they train school faculty how to identify and respond to children with behavioral health issues (SAMHSA, 2020). HR 721 would expand on this program, by implementing on site mental health professionals in schools.
Personally, I support HR 721, from what I have researched thus far. The problem is, 49.4% of children in the United States did not receive treatment or counseling for a mental health disorder. (Whitley, G., 2019). According to the CDC, the third leading cause of death for adolescents aged 15-19 was suicide (CDC, 2021). Those two statistics alone, show the deprivation of resources and funding in the American school system. My husband, being a police officer, noticed a significant spike in “suicidal juvenile” calls, over the past two years. I myself, work on a occasion, at the juvenile detention facility. I have watched these children, over the past couple of years, destroy their lives due to untreated mental health illnesses. What my husband has found, is oftentimes the children’s parents are to blame. Some of the parents see their child with a mental illness, and blame it on the child “acting out”. As time progresses, and police respond to the residences more often, the untreated child becomes increasingly more violent, and ultimately in a detention facility. 40-80% of children in a juvenile detention facility have at least one diagnosable mental health disorder. (Underwood, L. A., 2016).
“A recent umbrella review of mental health outcomes of quarantine and similar prevention strategies has found that depression, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress symptoms, sleep disorders, panic, stigmatization, low self-esteem, lack of self-control are highly prevalent among individuals impacted with physical isolation.” (Hossain, M., 2020).
I believe Congresswoman Napolitano’s health policy would be a step in the right direction. Providing adequate funding for grants to schools, and partnering with state mental health agencies to inform, and train school faculty, could potentially save many children’s lives. I tend to focus on proposed policies, by discerning which policies are truly aimed at bettering the American populace. There are endless evidence-based studies, on mental health in children, and early detection. There are also statistics like the adolescent suicide rate listed earlier, that undoubtedly prove this policy could make a difference. Bottom line is, our children are not receiving the adequate care, they deserve. Any proposition to aide in the deficit, is worth considering.
Facts on the Mental Health Services for Students Act. (n.d.). https://napolitano.house.gov/issues/hr-721-mental-health-services-students-act/facts-mental-health-services-students-act.
SAMHSA. (2020, February 18). Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education) State Education Grants. https://www.samhsa.gov/grants/grant-announcements/sm-20-016.
Whitley, G. (2019). US National and State-Level Prevalance of mental Health Disorders and Disparities of Mental Health Care Use in Children. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2724377?guestAccessKey=f689aa19-31f1-481d-878a-6bf83844536a.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2021). https://wonder.cdc.gov/controller/datarequest/D76;jsessionid=DEF669F5461013F8171B9D3ED2A6#Options.
Hossain, M. M., Tasnim, S., Sultana, A., Faizah, F., Mazumder, H., Zou, L., McKyer, E., Ahmed, H. U., & Ma, P. (2020). Epidemiology of mental health problems in COVID-19: a review. F1000Research, 9, 636. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.24457.1.
Underwood, L. A., & Washington, A. (2016). Mental Illness and Juvenile Offenders. International journal of environmental research and public health, 13(2), 228. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13020228.