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August 10, 2023

Ahead of School Year, King Works to Improve Mental Healthcare for Teachers, School Staff

BRUNSWICK, ME U.S. Senator Angus King has introduced legislation to increase access to mental health resources for educators and school staff. The Supporting the Mental Health of Educators and Staff Act will help address mental health challenges that have been exacerbated by growing teacher shortages, increasingly unfavorable working conditions, community-wide hardships, and lingering impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators – particularly those working in underserved schools – have left the teaching profession in record numbers, citing burnout, stress, low pay, and limited resources for mental health care as primary reasons for transitioning to a new career.

“Educators deserve to be supported just as they support the success and futures of our children. As students get ready to head back to school, we need to ensure their educators have the appropriate resources to start the school year in the healthiest possible manner,” said Senator King. “Increasing teacher shortages are showing that we must do more to improve teacher quality of life. The Supporting the Mental Health of Educators and Staff Act would take on this challenge by establishing new mental health programs, improving federal-state partnerships, and establishing best practices. I want to thank my colleague Senator Casey for his leadership on this commonsense bill and understanding that when our educators thrive so do our children.”

“Mental health is at the very heart of need in public education today. Students and educators alike are facing new and rapidly changing challenges on a daily basis and aren't always equipped with the tools to adapt,” said Matt Haney, Principal of Mount Desert Island High School “The resources to support members of the school community are far too limited to support the demand that exists, particularly in rural areas. Our schools, and as an extension, the future of our country is dependent upon significantly greater access to mental health supports.”

The Supporting the Mental Health of Educators and Staff Act will increase access to critical resources by designing and scaling up proven approaches to addressing the mental health needs of the education workforce across the United States. It will:

  • Require coordination between federal agencies to develop best practices for preventing suicide and improving mental health and resiliency among education professionals; and training education professionals in appropriate strategies to promote their mental health; 
  • Destigmatize mental health care among the education workforce by designing and disseminating an education and awareness initiative encouraging education professionals to use mental health and substance use disorder services; 
  • Provide direct support to educators and school staff members by establishing programs to promote mental health among the education professional workforce; and 
  • Promote accountability for federal resources for new programs.

The legislation has been endorsed by: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); AASA, The School Superintendents Association; National Council for Mental Wellbeing; National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP); National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP); American Psychological Association; Happy Teacher Revolution; The Education Trust; Teach For America; New Leaders; National Council on Teacher Quality; Teach Plus.

Senator King has been a long-time advocate for mental health resources. He recently introduced legislation to support veterans with mental traumas, has supported legislation to increase Medicare’s reimbursement rate for clinical social workers and secured funding for mental health services in tribal communities.

Additional information on the bill can be found here.

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