Congresswoman Marie Newman (D-IL-03) and Congressman Chris Stewart (R-UT-2) have sponsored a bill this session that will address students’ mental health by providing a 24/7 mental health helpline. The Student Mental Health Helpline Act of 2021 (HR 5235) authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to eligible States, local governments, Indian Tribes, and Tribal organizations and entities to establish or maintain a student mental health and safety helpline that is:
- Free and confidential
- Accessible to students through multiple platforms
- Able to provide information to school officials about student health and safety issues, to the extent permitted by the HIPAA privacy regulations
- Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year
According to the legislation, recipients of the grants will be required to:
- Support a helpline account for students facing challenges with abuse, bullying, depression, risk of self-injury, risk of injury to others, or suicidal thoughts
- Provide support in a culturally competent manner
- Coordinate with other mental health crisis lines; state and local mental health agencies and providers, local educational agencies, school administrators, and community-based health service providers; and state and local family service agencies in applicable cases
- Ensure that grant-funded activities are conducted in accordance with all applicable Federal and State privacy standards and maintain health care information in a secure manner
- Develop a disaster recovery plan and redundancy measures to ensure continuous technical operations
The legislation also permits use of the grant for some other related purposes as well. If passed, the legislation has appropriated $55 million for each fiscal year from 2022 through 2032.
Currently, there are eight bipartisan co-sponsors for the bill from Arizona, Florida, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Washington. If your legislators have not yet signed on to cosponsor this bill, please reach out to them to ask for their support.
To read the complete bill, please visit ACA’s Take Action page. To get involved in ACA’s advocacy efforts, please contact the ACA Government Affairs and Public Policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org.