A $10 million training program for school-based mental health support is included in the fiscal year 2019 Defense, Labor, and Health and Human Services Appropriations bill that was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate on the evening of Aug. 23.
The Senate passed the appropriations measure with a vote of 85–7. The package includes an amendment offered by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) that would create a pilot program at the Department of Education to test and evaluate partnerships between universities and state and local education agencies to train school counselors and other mental health professionals for positions in public school systems serving low-income communities.
“The American Counseling Association and its members are extremely appreciative of the leadership of Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio in advancing critical funding through the fiscal year 2019 Senate Defense, Labor, and Health and Human Services Appropriations bill,” American Counseling Association Chief Executive Officer Richard Yep said. “The funding will prioritize critical mental health counseling services and training for those students in greatest need. We look forward to working with their counterparts in the House to ensure this provision is signed into law.”
American Counseling Association members supported the Nelson amendment with nearly 1,500 messages to 98 senators, sent through ACA’s VoterVoice advocacy system. The amendment addresses shortages of school-based mental health professionals in school districts serving low-income communities by providing $10 million in FY2019 for a pilot program available to elementary and secondary schools. The Nelson amendment was one of 57 amendments accepted out of a total of 318 amendments offered.
The House has not yet considered its education spending bill, but is likely to do so in September. The American Counseling Association will advocate for the inclusion of this program in the House measure.
The provision will be considered in the House-Senate conference later this fall, even if it doesn’t make it into the House bill. The American Counseling Association will be asking members to advocate for the program with their representatives during the House-Senate conference.
You can read the text of the Nelson amendment in the Congressional Record here.