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Mental health supports in Virginia schools strengthened due to overwhelming need

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The availability of mental health providers in public schools may be boosted, thanks to legislation proposed in part by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

The bill aims to combat the alarming increase in mental health challenges among young people.

“If we want students to be successful, then we need to ensure they have the resources they need to thrive. That includes access to mental health services at school,” said Kaine. “This bill would help ensure schools have enough counselors and mental health professionals to provide students with the support they need.”

Public schools are struggling to supply enough counselors to aid the number of  students in need.

The recommended maximum student-to-counselor ratio is 250 students per counselor; however, the current national average is 385 students per counselor.

In December 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory highlighting the major increase in mental health challenges that children and adolescents are experiencing following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Murthy found that one in three high school students and half of female students report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.

Breaking down the legislation

This legislation will establish five-year renewable grant programs to help elementary and secondary schools hire additional school-based mental health providers, including counselors, psychologists and social workers, to ensure students have access to comprehensive mental health care and support resources.

The full text of the bill can be found here.

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May is recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month.
If you or someone you know needs support now, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org
For local mental health resources, visit AFP’s Project Mental Health page.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.