Michigan school and health officials push to increase mental health spending in schools

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“A lot of our kids had mental health issues before the pandemic,” State Superintendent Michael Rice said at a news conference at an elementary school in Ingham County. “Student and staff mental health issues have clearly increased during the pandemic. Funding for school mental health is essential to meet these needs, not sufficient, but certainly necessary.

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The increase in mental health spending is part of Whitmer’s proposed school aid fund budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, a budget that school leaders hope to be able to finalize in June, before the districts budget years do not start on July 1.

While the K-12 budget proposals introduced by the Democratic Governor and Republican leaders in the House and Senate increase all overall K-12 spending, the proposals vary in prioritiesincluding funding for mental health services.

the governor’s office proposes an increase of $361 million for mental health support. The proposal includes $120 million for hiring school nurses and counselors and $25 million for mental health screenings in schools.

the Senate version of the School Aid Fund has no funding for mental health screenings and the hiring of nurses and counsellors. the House The School Support Fund bill would increase the state mental health budget by $85.4 million. The House budget includes funds for mental health screenings and the hiring of school counselors and psychologists.

The drive to increase mental health support in education follows studies in recent years that show students are facing increasing levels of stress and depression. In 2020, the American Psychological Association declared a mental health emergency among American teens after rising stress levels and teenage suicide rates peaked during the pandemic. The APA recommends increased funding for school mental health initiatives such as regular mental health screenings and mental health clinics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a study 2021 that 31% of high school students in the United States reported having poor mental health and 44% of students felt “constantly sad or hopeless” during the pandemic.

“Behavioral health, including mental health, is just as important as our physical health, and access to the schools where our children spend much of their time is a crucial part of the equation,” Elizabeth Hertel, Principal of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said Tuesday in a statement coordinated with Rice’s press conference. “We now have the opportunity to do better for our friends, family and communities, but especially for our children. I am optimistic about what we can achieve with our budget recommendations to increase community and home-based services, including school-based care.

At the press conference, Rice pushed for passage of the governor’s office proposal to implement comprehensive mental health training programs for teachers and administrators in school districts across the state.

“Our state’s Senate and House of Representatives have not fully addressed the needs of our students in their education aid budgets,” Rice said. “The House added $100 million to its original budget towards the end of its process which, while appreciated, is not quite adequate.

“We need to pass a budget that supports children’s mental health in Michigan schools and districts, like the governor’s budget does.”

The press conference took place at Potterville Elementary School in Ingham County, which is part of a school district that uses a robust mental health program called Capturing the hearts of children.

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