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September 27, 2019

King Backs Bill to Improve Mental Health Services at Maine Schools

BRUNSWICK, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced his support for legislation that would help schools provide vital mental health services at schools across Maine. The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act would give schools much-needed resources to provide the mental health counselors that students need and rely on. Specifically, it would establish grants that would be provided to states to help ensure that every school can meet the recommended counselor-to-student ratios.

“School counselors encourage, inspire, and ultimately help lead our children to success,” said Senator King. “Every student should be able to access help if and when they need it, and no student should have to wait months for treatment. By providing more counselors in schools, we’ll ensure that Maine kids can address their mental health needs and be able to bring their best efforts to the classroom.”

“Our educators work hard to meet the needs of each student—but more resources are necessary as those needs have increased,” said Grace Leavitt, President of Maine Education Association. “This act will be extremely helpful in working towards ensuring our students have access to the support they deserve. We are glad that Senator King recognizes this and is taking this step.”

The recommended student-to-counselor ratio is 250 students per counselor, but Maine’s ratio exceeds that at 321:1 – with national figures estimated to be even worse. This disparity between students’ need and available resources can have critical consequences for young Americans. Mental illness affects 20 percent of American youth. About half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and more than a third of students 14 and older with a mental illness drop out of school. Fully 90 percent of youth who die by suicide had a mental illness.

Youth with access to mental health service providers in their school are 10 times more likely to seek care than youth without access, but school districts across America lack the resources to provide students with the in-school treatment and care they need. Young people often find themselves waiting months for mental health treatment—an unacceptable delay, particularly at a vulnerable stage of life.

In addition to Senator King, the bill is supported by U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Robert Casey (D-Penn.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.).

The bill is endorsed by the National Education Association, the National PTA, the National Association of School Psychologists, the School Social Work Association of America, the American School Counselor Association, and the American Psychological Association.

A summary of the bill is available here.

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