The Crisis of Mental Health
In wake of the recent shooting tragedies in El Paso and Dayton, the issue crisis of mental health has once again come to light. It’s just another horrific reminder that we are not properly taking care of our young people in this country. With all the mass shootings, violence, addiction, trauma, mental sickness (including social and emotional disturbances), and teen suicides happening, we’ve got to do more than just talk about guns. We also have to talk about healing.
While there may be no singular panacea for the problems at hand, we know that the special education system in this country is built to detect and provide help & support to students in need. AND THE NEEDS ARE MORE PROFOUND THAN THEY HAVE EVER BEEN.
The problem is that the special education programs are woefully underfunded to the point where they can’t fully execute on the very things they were set up to do.
Special Educators take a Leading Role
Just last month, education leaders from all over the country convened in Washington DC to attend the Special Education Legislative Summit (SELS) sponsored by the CEC and CASE. During this conference, these leaders addressed some of the most critical issues in Special Education and marched on Capitol Hill to meet with congressional leaders to advocate for better solutions and change.
This year, one of the main areas of focus was on the crisis of mental health and ensuring that EVERY student has access to the proper mental health supports — along with a request for $4.15 billion. The hope is not only to provide relief to a struggling generation, but to also invest in them so they can one day go into the world equipped to lead happy and productive lives.
What Can You Do?
Watch this short video and learn more. While in DC, we shot a series of interviews and were privileged enough to have Kevin Rubenstein (President of the Illinois Alliance of Special Education of Administrators and CASE Board Member) share a few thoughts on the crisis of mental health.
We have also included the SELS Issue Brief (courtesy of the CEC) regarding the current mental health below. We hope you will take a few minutes to read it. We ask that you pass this important message along and get involved as we continue to urge the Federal Government to invest more in our students as we try to solve the crisis of mental health.
This can only happen if we all do our part.
Issue Brief: Mental Health Building Positive Climates for Learning
Members of Congress are urged to:
- Provide $2.55 billion for ESSA Title II, Part A in FFY to ensure educators are prepared to implement evidence-based mental health interventions.
- Provide $1.6 billion to fund ESSA Title IV, Part A in FFY to support schools and early childhood programs to hire social workers, counselors and psychologists.
- Co-sponsor and support the Resilience Investment Support, and Expansion (RISE) from Trauma Act, S. 1770 (Durbin D-IL, Capito, R-WV) and H.R. 3180 (Davis, D-IL, Gallagher, R-WI), strengthening support for children who have been exposed to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma through building a trauma-informed workforce and increasing resources for communities to support children who have experienced trauma.
- Maintain current structure and funding for Medicaid that allows for reimbursement for IDEA services.
- Support legislative policies that increase access to mental health services through private health insurance and Medicaid.
- Support policy and funding for services and community interventions for children and youth who experience trauma, environmental stress and mental health symptoms and disorders.
- Support policy and funding that promote prevention and an interdisciplinary partnership among education, early learning, juvenile justice, mental health, and community health providers to ensure the social and emotional well-being of all children and youth.
There is growing awareness of the importance of investing in children’s mental health. A whole-child approach—one where the academic, physical, and mental health needs of children and youth are met—supports success. This success in turn depends on dedicated and highly trained mental health professionals working with all children from “cradle to career,” who take interdisciplinary approaches to delivering mental health services across a multitiered system of support. Professionals in schools and early childhood programs who implement evidence-based interventions are more successful in creating environments conducive to learning. A sense of belonging and the inclusion of all children and youth in the environment are critical features of evidence-based practices. High-quality, evidence-based interventions delivered by trained professionals are critical to addressing the impact of traumatic experiences on development. These practices must be integrated into a system of care that is comprehensive, cohesive, and delivered in schools, early childhood programs, transition programs, and community health and mental health systems. Investment in recruiting and retaining school mental health professionals and in identifying and implementing evidence-based mental health interventions across all tiers is essential to achieving successful outcomes for all children and youth.
Recruiting and Retaining High Quality Professionals
Building a positive school and early childhood program climate requires highly skilled teachers, social workers, psychologists, and counselors. Collectively, these individuals make a difference in the lives of children and youth, resulting in positive developmental, academic, and social outcomes. In order to ensure this goal is achieved, Congress should provide $1.6 billion to fund Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title IV, Part A in FFY 2020 to support schools and early childhood programs in implementing prevention programs and hiring social workers, counselors, and psychologists.
A positive school and early childhood program climate results from caring communities of adults, children, and youth learning together. It also requires implementing multitiered systems of supports, including evidence-based curriculum and intervention within a trauma-informed environment. Investment in effectively training professionals is necessary to achieve these results.
There is a national shortage of teachers, early childhood providers, mental health providers, and specialized instructional support personnel. Changes must be implemented to reduce the ratios of mental health professionals to children and youth and ensure professionals are specifically trained to address children’s mental health.
Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Crisis of Mental Health
Access to mental health services—screening, providing direct services, engaging and supporting families, and connecting to community-based interventions—is vital to the well-being of children and youth. Supporting and funding services for families (in addition to their children) is also critical. Policies to fund mental health services through private health insurance, Medicaid, and programmatic mental health resources (training, curriculum, sharing of best practices) are needed to create a comprehensive system of support. In addition to community mental health interventions, educators, counselors, social workers, psychologists, and early childhood providers must acquire and use evidence-based interventions to promote children’s mental health. This is especially true for children growing up in urban areas plagued by gun violence.
Professionals must collaborate and communicate with community providers (pediatricians, mental health providers) who are trained in trauma-informed interventions to appropriately address the mental health needs of children and youth and their families. This collaboration supports implementation of approaches that:
• provide evidence-based mental health services for children and youth;
• are culturally responsive;
• are trauma informed;
• address social and emotional and mental health needs for all children and youth;
• confront the stigma of mental health challenges; and
• ensure an adequate number of professionals are trained to address the complex needs of children and youth with social, emotional, and mental health challenges.
Positive outcomes for children and youth are the result of caring communities of adults, children, and youth learning together. This outcome also requires implementing multitiered systems of support, including evidence-based curriculum and intervention within a trauma-informed environment.