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As Surgeon General Sounds the Alarm, Senator Merkley and Assistant Speaker Clark Announce the Introduction of Legislation to Increase Mental Health Resources in Schools

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (MA-05) today announced the introduction of the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act, legislation that would greatly boost the availability of mental health resources in America’s public schools.

Mental illness affects one in five­­—20 percent—of American youth, and just this week, the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued a new Surgeon General’s Advisory stressing the urgent and critical need to address the country’s youth mental health crisis worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bicameral legislation will put additional mental health providers in elementary and secondary schools across America.

“Mental health care is essential health care, now more than ever,” said Senator Merkley. “Our country has neglected this fact for far too long, and our children are paying the price. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic still greatly impacting the growth and experience of our school-aged kids, it’s time to do a lot more to ensure mental health programs are available to every child in every school.”

“We know that our students’ success in school is about more than just test scores – they need the social and emotional support of mental health professionals in order to thrive,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “As kids return to school in new and unfamiliar ways coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more important that we invest directly in school nurses, social workers, and counselors. The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act will help public schools meet the counselor-to-student ratios necessary to foster safe schools and promote the long-term health and welfare of our nation’s youth.”

The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act would establish five-year renewable grant programs for elementary and secondary schools to hire additional school counselors.

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