September 18, 2019

Wyden Co-sponsors School Mental Health Services Bill

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today announced he is co-sponsoring legislation that would help schools provide the mental health counseling needed by so many students.

“Students, teachers and counselors across Oregon tell me just how much young people facing challenges at home and in the classroom need better access to mental health care in schools,” Wyden said of the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act.

“This bill would provide that access by supporting schools’ efforts to have counselor-to-student ratios that are recognized as essential to good mental health,” Wyden said. “I will always fight to ensure mental health is treated every bit as seriously as physical health.”

The recommended student-to-counselor ratio is 250 students per counselor, but the national average is 455 students per counselor and the Oregon average is 511 students per counselor. For school psychologists, the recommended ratio is 500 to 700 students per provider, and 250 to 1 for school social workers.

Mental illness affects 20 percent of American youth. About half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and more than a third of students 14 and older with mental illness drop out of school. Fully 90 percent of youth who die by suicide had a mental illness.

Youth with access to mental health service providers in their school are 10 times more likely to seek care than youth without access, but school districts across America lack the resources to provide students with the in-school treatment and care they need. Young people often find themselves waiting months for mental health treatment—an unacceptable delay, particularly at a vulnerable stage of life.

The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act introduced by Wyden’s Oregon colleague, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, is co-sponsored by Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Angus King (I-ME), Doug Jones (D-AL), Robert Casey (D-PA), and Chris Coons (D-DE).

The bill is endorsed by the National Education Association, the National PTA, the National Association of School Psychologists, the School Social Work Association of America, the American School Counselor Association, and the American Psychological Association.

A summary of the bill is available here.