Governor Lee renews proposal for K-12 Mental Health Trust Fund

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In this March 6, 2020, photo, a classroom is seen vacant through a window at Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, R.I., as the school remains closed following a confirmed case of the coronavirus. As a growing number of schools around the country close their doors because of the new coronavirus, they are confronted with the dilemma of whether to move classes online and run the risk of leaving behind the many students who don’t have internet or computers at home, or parents with flexible work schedule. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Governor Bill Lee re-introduced the Mental Health Trust Fund in a renewed proposal to offer assistance to K-12 families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal allocates $250,000 million to fund mental health services for school-aged students, including clinical services in schools, suicide prevention programs, and violence and bullying prevention efforts.  

“The mental health of all Tennessee students is essential to their safety, education and success beyond the classroom,” Governor Lee said. “While my administration proposed these critical mental health supports last year, we now have the available funding and a greater need than ever before to ensure our students have access to mental health resources. I thank the members of the General Assembly for their partnership in this important effort.” 

The governor’s office cited numbers ranking Tennessee as 28th in overall mental health and 34th overall in youth mental health, as of January 2021. More than 60% of students who receive mental health services do so through their school. School closures during the pandemic have limited students’ access to mental health services.  

“We know the earlier we can intervene, the better outcomes are for children and families,” said Marie Williams, LCSW and Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “The services that will be funded by this investment will allow us to increase the services available from community mental health providers and schools, preventing children from entering mental health crisis situations and ending up in an emergency room.”

Beginning September 2020, the state expanded mental health supports for uninsured children between the ages of 3 and 17. In addition, the School Based Behavioral Health Liaison program expanded to all 95 counties. Funding also allowed the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network has expanded its coverage and youth mental health programs to reach more than 11,000 people.  

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