Mental health issues among young students in the United States has been an important public health concern for many years, with an increasing amount of teenagers facing depression. A survey report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the pandemic has only made this crisis worse for young students affected by school closures, social isolation, family economic hardship, fear of family loss or illness, and reduced access to health care services. According to the report, these various factors have contributed to more than one in three high school students experiencing poor mental health during the pandemic, with students reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and thoughts about, as well as attempts on, ending their lives.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer, as part of her commitment to helping students, recently hosted a mental health roundtable at Pontiac High School. The goal of the roundtable was to speak with students, parents, educators, and mental health professionals in order to advocate for additional mental health investments in schools. The governor’s fiscal year 2023 School Aid Fund budget recommendation would invest $361 million for school-based mental health services, including hiring and retaining mental health professionals as well as clinicians. It would also add 40 new clinics for students to the over 100 sites across Michigan that are already serving more than 200,000 students annually in communities where families lack access to medical services.
Here is how the proposed $361 million budget will be divided up: $25 million will go to give every school free access to quality mental health screeners; $120 million will be used to hire more school-based mental health professionals; $11 million to open school-based health centers in regions with limited access to care; $50 million to support school nurses, as well as social workers, and ensure they are not isolated resources for their students; along with $5 million to provide on-demand help for school-based clinicians responding to unique cases, in partnership with the Michigan Child Collaborative Care (MC3) program at the University of Michigan. The program provides psychiatry support to primary care providers in Michigan who are managing patients with behavioral health problems, which includes children, adolescents, and young adults through age 26.
And finally, $150 million will go to offering training for teachers in partnership with TRAILS (Transforming Research into Action to Improve the Lives of Students). The organization works to provide evidence-based mental health services in schools by offering training, resources, and implementation support to teachers and school staff. There are currently no participating schools in Calhoun County but TRAILS and the Michigan Department of Education are working together to expand the program to more areas across the state.