Improving Mental Health Services and Increasing Supportive Services in Schools

On Thursday, August 25th, the National Governors Association Bipartisan Working Group on School and Community Safety hosted the first of a three-part briefing series on the “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA): Improving Mental Health Services and Increasing Supportive Services in Schools.”  

In June, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the BSCA, one of the most significant steps Congress has taken to reduce gun violence in decades and expand access to community and school-based behavioral health services for children and families. BSCA also appropriates funds for federal activities and more than $4.5 billion for state grant programs. NGA was joined by representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education to discuss in more detail the allowable use of these funds and next steps.

This bipartisan Governors’ working group chaired by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, along with six other governors, was formed in June of this year, after the Uvalde school shooting in Texas. This working group has met several times and the goal is for these bipartisan governors to come together and identify solutions that gives state and local leaders tools to promote effective measures in their respective communities.

On this briefing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provided an overview of the $800 million included in the BSCA for youth mental health crisis and $150 million for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline/988. It is important to note that Congress slightly redefined the end of the fiscal year in the BSCA to December 31, 2022, which means agencies don’t have to release funding from the BSCA until then. Many of these are formula-based grant programs for: aftermath of civil unrest, community violence, community trauma, trauma in schools. In addition, the BSCA also expanded the Community Mental Health Services Demonstration program, started solely as a Medicaid program in 2014 and established planning grants for states to start a demo and currently only ten states are participating. BSCA allows up to ten states to opt in every two years and provides $40 million for planning grants and technical assistance.

The U.S. Department of Education also provided an overview of the implementation of BSCA, which provides $1 billion for two federal discretionary programs to expand and strengthen the school based mental health workforce. Alongside this critical funding, the BSCA provides over $1 billion in flexible funding for states and territories to support safe and healthy campus environments. The Department of Education continues to engage stakeholders on the implementation and allotment of these grants and will have further information available in the coming weeks and months.