U.S. Rep. Marie Newman

U.S. Rep. Marie Newman

Newman: bill would add mental health help to schools

From staff reports

U.S. Rep. Marie Newman (D-3rd) has co-sponsored legislation designed to provide support for tens of thousands of counselors, school psychologists and social workers serving at schools across the nation.

Under the Assisting School Mental Health Professionals Through Work Study Act that was introduced last week, Federal Work Study (FWS) students would now be able to assist school-based mental health professionals as a qualifying community service activity.

MarieNewman2021

U.S. Rep. Marie Newman (D-3rd)

“A student’s access to mental health resources and services is just as imperative to their future as their own education is,” Newman said. “Yet, in far too many schools across the nation, including in my own district, a small number of counselors, social workers and psychologists are responsible for the well-being of hundreds of students.

“By passing this bipartisan legislation to finally allow FWS students to assist school-based mental health professionals, we can not only further support our counselors, school psychologists and social workers but also bring new talent into a field that is experiencing a national workforce shortage,” she continued.

Co-sponsor of the legislation is U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, a Michigan Republican.

“The mental health of our students is important to their well-being and academic success, and this legislation will help support them,” Moolenaar said. “Many times, school counselors are responsible for providing care to hundreds of students in addition to administrative responsibilities. This legislation will help alleviate that workload and allow mental health professionals to focus on supporting students, while work study participants help with administrative tasks like scheduling, coordinating with teachers, and preparing basic paperwork.”

The majority of schools nationwide currently fall short of the recommended ratios of school-based mental health professionals to students, leaving school-based mental health professionals stretched thin trying to serve as many students as they can with limited time and support, the congressmen said. By ensuring that assisting school-based mental health professionals is added to the list of qualified community service activities for FWS students, the legislation would provide countless counselors, school psychologists and social workers with the administrative support they need at no extra cost to their schools or the federal government, they added.

The nation is also experiencing a national workforce shortage of school psychologists; and to meet the recommended ratio of no more than 500 students per school psychologist, the U.S. would need to add about 63,000 school psychologists to the existing workforce. By allowing FWS students to now get insights into the different school-based mental health professional roles, the legislation would increase student interest in the professions and further reduce workforce shortages in the longer term.

The FWS Program provides funds for part-time employment to help students to finance the costs of postsecondary education. FWS students are required to allocate a portion of their work study working in community service jobs, such as tutoring students. However, assisting school-based mental health professionals currently does not qualify as a community service job under the program. Passing the Under the Assisting School Mental Health Professionals Through Work Study Act in Congress would change that.

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