WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Katherine Clark (MA-5) applauded the Energy and Commerce Committee’s passage of her Into the Light Act.

This bicameral and bipartisan legislation will reauthorize and expand a grant program to screen and treat maternal mental health and substance use disorders and was originally created through Clark’s Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act. 

This bill will add training on trauma-informed care and will bridge gaps in health equity by providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services for postpartum mothers. Clark’s bill passed as part of a package of bills to address the current mental health crisis and is now headed to a vote by the full House of Representatives. 

Also this week, Clark’s Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act passed out of the Education and Labor Committee as part of the Mental Health Matters Act to address mental health challenges across the U.S. The bicameral legislation would help fill the critical unmet need for school-based mental health service providers in public schools across the United States by directing the Department of Education to establish a five-year renewable grant program for elementary and secondary schools to hire additional school counselors.

“We are facing a mental health crisis in this country and it is extremely important that moms and kids have the supports they need,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “I’m thrilled that my bills to provide permanent mental health resources to moms across the country and school-based mental health resources for students in public schools are both heading to the House floor for a vote. I look forward to these bills’ passage so we can urgently provide families with the support they need to not just bounce back from this crisis, but to truly thrive.”

Into the Light for Maternal Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Act

The most common complication of pregnancy is a mental health condition, and suicide and overdose are leading causes of death for postpartum women. As many as seventy-five percent of those impacted never receive treatment, costing our health care system, workforce, and economy an estimated $14.2 billion each year or $32,000 per mother-infant pair, and resulting in potential negative long-term consequences for the health and well-being of parents, infants, and families. The pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis, tripling the number of pregnant or postpartum women struggling with these conditions. 

The Into the Light Act for Maternal Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Act will scale up the existing screening and treatment program based on feedback from states, broaden the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) support from 7 to 30 state programs, and add training on trauma-informed care, biases, and culturally and linguistically appropriate services to bridge gaps for health equity. It will also codify the Maternal Mental Health Hotline, a national 24/7 voice and text program to help pregnant or postpartum women and family members affected by maternal mental health and substance use disorders.

Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act

The recommended student-to-counselor ratio is 250 students per counselor, but the national average for the 2019-2020 school year was 424-to-1. For school psychologists, the recommended ratio is 500 students per provider, and 250-to-1 for school social workers. This disparity between students’ needs and available resources can have critical consequences for young Americans. Mental illness affects twenty percent of American youth. Approximately half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and more than a third of students 14 and older with mental illness drop out of school. Ninety percent of young people who die by suicide had a mental illness.

Youth with access to mental health service providers in their school are ten times more likely to seek care than youth without access, but school districts across America lack the investment and 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 at a vulnerable stage of life.

The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act, led by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in the Senate, would tackle this crisis head-on by finally providing the necessary resources for schools to provide the mental health counselors their students need and rely on. Specifically, it would establish grants to states to help ensure that every school can meet the recommended counselor-to-student ratios.  

The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act is endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, American School Counselor Association, American Psychological Association, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, National Education Association, and School Social Work Association of America. 


Original story HERE.