States as diverse as Idaho, Minnesota, California, and North Dakota offer bright spots in school mental health policy, but all states have significant gaps that are short-changing children who are struggling.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Hopeful Futures Campaign – a broad coalition of leading national organizations working to promote mental health supports in America’s schools – today published its first-ever “America’s School Mental Health Report Card,” which scores all 50 states and D.C. based on a comprehensive review of their policies to support school mental health services.
The new report found that states as diverse as Idaho, Minnesota, California, and North Dakota have taken positive steps that support school mental health, but also revealed that all states show gaps. Only D.C. and Idaho exceed the nationally recommended ratio of one school psychologist for every 500 students, while five states – West Virginia, Missouri, Texas, Alaska, and Georgia – have only one school psychologist for well over 4,000 students. The Campaign will use the results of the report cards to prioritize its policy and advocacy efforts in 2022 and beyond.
View the full report here
To accompany the new report, the Hopeful Futures Campaign also debuted an online action center at HopefulFutures.Us where students, parents, and anyone who wants to make a difference can learn about the state of school mental health where they live, then take direct action to improve their state’s response to youth in crisis.
“America’s children are struggling,” said Bill Smith, founder of the national mental health nonprofit Inseparable. “Adolescent mental health was a crisis before the pandemic, and it’s now more urgent than ever. We need to focus on early intervention and prevention efforts in K-12 schools so every student has access to the mental health care they need. That’s why Inseparable joined 17 other organizations to form the Hopeful Futures Campaign. We believe that all parents, families, and communities want their children to be safe, happy, and healthy.
Each year, about 7.7 million U.S. youth experience a mental health condition. In 2020, there was a 24 percent increase in the proportion of mental health emergency department visits for children ages 5 to 11, and a 31 percent increase for youth ages 12 to 17, compared to the same period in 2019. Tragically, suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10 to 24. The youth mental health crisis prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association to recently issue a joint declaration of a national emergency and the U.S. Surgeon General to issue an Advisory on Protecting Youth Mental Health.
Despite how common it is for youth to experience mental health challenges, few get the services they need — or any help at all. Fewer than half of adolescents with a major depressive episode received treatment, with Black, Hispanic, and Asian youth having lower rates of receiving treatment (36.3, 35.6, and 26.2%, respectively) than White youth (46.0%) This is troubling because getting youth help early results in better outcomes and helps keep young lives on track. One of the most effective ways to provide early intervention is to meet youth where they are — in schools — with a range of services and supports that build resiliency and provide real help for those with greater challenges.
In addition to the rankings, the new report highlights programs and policies in some states that stand out as models for positive change. Among the standout states featured:
- Maryland – While many states deserve applause for their work on different aspects of school climate, like anti-bullying initiatives, Maryland is admirable for requiring restorative approaches to discipline and annual reporting on school discipline data. (MD Stat §7-306). Maryland also requires analysis to determine whether there is a disproportionate impact on minority students and on special education students and requires plans to eliminate disparities (MD Code of Regs Sec. 13A.08.01 (2014)).
- Kansas – Kansas is notable for forming the Kansas School Mental Health Advisory Council, which engages parents, providers, legislators and other partners to advise the state Board of Education on school mental health and coordinate with legislators and stakeholders to best meet the needs of students.
- Minnesota – Minnesota has a noteworthy program of school-linked behavioral health grants that promote partnerships between schools and community mental health providers to provide an array of supportive mental health services, including via telehealth, to help students and their families.
- New Jersey – New Jersey stands out for taking a step in the right direction on well-being checks. In 2021, New Jersey created a $1 million Mental Health Screening in Schools Grant Program that provides funds for schools to administer annual depression screenings for students in grades 7-12. Well-being checks are important to help identify students who may be struggling and need support.
- New York and Virginia – New York deserves continued praise for its widely lauded mental health education law, which requires that all schools’ health education programs include mental health. Several states, including Virginia, have followed suit, recognizing the importance of intentionally integrating mental health into health education.
Launched in May 2021, the Hopeful Futures Campaign aims to ensure every school in the country has a comprehensive plan for student mental health. Led by national mental health nonprofit Inseparable, campaign partners include Active Minds, Bring Change to Mind, The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Healthy Schools Campaign, The Jed Foundation, The Kennedy Forum, Mental Health America, Mindful Philanthropy, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), National Center for School Mental Health (NCSMH), Partnership to End Addiction, Rare Impact by Rare Beauty, The Trevor Project, UNICEF USA, Well Being Trust and YourMomCares.
About The Jed Foundation (JED)
JED is a nonprofit that protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults. We’re partnering with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance misuse, and suicide prevention programs and systems. We’re equipping teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other. We’re encouraging community awareness, understanding, and action for young adult mental health.
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