On June 25, President Biden signed the most substantial federal gun safety legislation to be passed in decades. The “Bipartisan Safer Communities Act” (S.2938) was passed in response to the most recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, and includes several provisions to address school safety in addition to gun violence prevention.
Increased Funding for Mental Health Programs and School Security
S.2938 provides an additional $1 billion to supplement Title IV-A and $50 million to supplement Title IV-B. The $1 billion allocated to Title IV-A will be used to support several “school safety national activities” to improve conditions for student learning, including the development of positive school climates through evidence-based practices. The $50 million allocated to Title IV-B will be used to supplement the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides students with extracurricular, after school, and summer programs. The $1 billion allocated to “Safe Schools and Citizenship Education” will be split into two $500 million grant programs, aimed at supplementing school-based mental health services. The first grant program, the “School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program” will be used to increase the number of qualified mental health professionals serving schools in need, while the second program “School-Based Mental Health Service Professionals Demonstration Grant” will be used to train and diversify the pipeline of school-based professionals. The additional funding provided to these programs will help keep our students both physically and mentally safe while in school.
On August 1st the Biden-Harris Administration announced two new actions to address the youth mental health crisis in America. The first action taken by the administration is the disbursement of funds appropriated by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, allocating $280 million to expand access to mental health services in schools. Of the $280 million being disbursed, $140 million will be allocated to MHSP to strengthen the pipeline into the mental health profession and prepare providers for employment in schools, and $140 million will be allocated to SBMH to increase the number of qualified mental health professionals in LEAs with demonstrated need.
In addition to the $280 million provided this year by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, $1.7 billion will be made available in the future to provide funding and technical assistance in several areas, including:
- Increasing Access to Children’s Mental Health Services- $80 million allocated to HHS for grants that support pediatric primary care providers, emergency departments, and schools to rapidly access mental health services and better connect to children.
- Expanding Training for Pediatric Providers- $60 million allocated over five years, for HHS to train primary care residents in the prevention, treatment, and referral of services for mental and behavioral health conditions for pediatric and adolescents
- Building Awareness of and Access to Mental Health Services- $240 million allocated to programs that increase awareness and access to mental health supports for school aged-youth.
- Improving Conditions for Student Learning- $1 billion allocated to Title IV-A to support a variety of activities to improve conditions for student learning through evidence-based practices to promote positive school climates.
- Expanding Access to Out of School Programs- $50 million allocated to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers to fund extracurricular, after-school, and summer programs that will help students feel more connected to their community and improve overall mental health and well-being.
For a complete list of areas receiving funding and technical assistance through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, see the fact sheet, provided by the Biden-Harris Administration.
Lastly, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services sent a joint letter to governors encouraging them to invest more in school-based mental health services. The joint letter highlighted federal resources available to states and schools that can be used to invest in mental health services for students.
It is important to note that the legislation also includes language prohibiting the use of any funds authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, including Title IV-A, to arm educators or provide training for guns to be used in schools.
Funds to Help States Implement Crisis Prevention Programs
S.2938 provides $750 million to states to help implement and run crisis prevention programs, including red flag laws. Red flag laws allow interested parties to petition a court to take away someone’s firearms for up to a year, if they are believed to be a danger to themselves or others. States that do not have red flag programs will be able to use these funds to supplement crisis prevention programs such as emergency mental health services.
While the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act included comprehensive measures on gun violence and mental health, conversations about school safety continue at the federal and state levels. Prior to the bill’s introduction in Congress, NAfME signed onto a statement from the Title IV-A Coalition “demanding action to ensure students are safe from gun violence.” We remain committed to ensuring that students have a safe, healthy, and engaging environment in which to learn and will continue to update members on future developments.