Senator Tester Pushes to Increase Mental Health Resources in Montana’s Public Schools

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Senator Tester Takes Action Following Survey that Indicates a Quarter of High School Students Have Considered Suicide

Senator Jon Tester is taking action to increase mental health care resources at Montana’s public schools.

Following a study of Great Falls Public School students that found 25 percent of high school students seriously considered committing suicide, Tester is pushing his colleagues in the Senate to fully fund the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants to boost access to school-based counseling and mental health care services.

“Students across Montana are struggling to overcome the impacts of trauma, abuse, substance use, and endemic poverty in their families’ lives,” Tester wrote to his colleagues.  “They bring these burdens with them into the classroom, where they then struggle to learn.  Our public educators are dedicated to helping them overcome these struggles and succeed academically, but they need the resources in order to do so.”

Tester supported legislation in 2015 that authorized $1.6 billion annually for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants.  The grants are awarded to the state and then administered to local public school districts to increase student health resources like counseling and mental health care services.

However, since the legislation was signed into law, Congress has only appropriated $400 million annually for the grants—leaving many school districts without the access to the resources they need to hire more counseling and mental health professionals.

Earlier this month, Congress passed a new long-term budget, which could pave the way for funding increases at the Department of Education.  Tester called on his colleagues to use this opportunity to fully fund Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants.

“Significant funding increases for these grants could help our public schools meet their students’ mental health needs and give them the tools they need to succeed,” Tester added.

Tester also successfully fought this month to reauthorize and increase funding for Montana’s many Community Health Centers in the long-term budget, which are often the primary source of mental health care for children in rural communities.

Tester’s letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Appropriations and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Committees is available HERE.

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