The American Psychological Association (APA) sent a letter of recommendations to Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The letter applauded his leadership on addressing school safety and mental health to ensure the welfare of our nation’s schools, campuses and communities. The letter highlighted  actionable policy and funding recommendations that recognize the critical role of safe school environments in maximizing student outcomes alongside the need for comprehensive and strategic community-based approaches to prevention.

APA recommended an array of evidence-based interventions that promote positive school climate, including social and emotional learning programs, access to school-based mental health services, and training for school personnel to identify, assess, and meet the needs of students, both at the individual and school-wide levels. A comprehensive system of supports and interventions should work together to create safe, supportive, equitable, learning environments as well as to prevent negative outcomes, such as acts of violence. This would support the following:

  • All students will receive a well-rounded education, and have access to mental health counseling and programs supported by the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) block grant under Title IV-A.
  • APA urges Congress to resists calls to arm teachers or school personnel. Moreover, Congress should consider policies aimed at reducing weapons in schools by incorporating a universal public health prevention approach that promotes statewide data collection and infrastructure to support policy development and monitor key outcomes.

The letter addressed an array of topics that needed to be supported by increased funding or additional allocation:

  • The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) – addressing needs in Higher Education.
  • School-Based Health Centers Reauthorization Act of 2019 (S.1013) – the development and expansion of school-based health services, including mental health care.
  • The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA) programs – increase young adults’ access to prevention, education, and outreach services to reduce suicide risk in states, tribes, and institutions of higher education.
  • The reauthorization of Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, as passed by the House in May of 2019
  • APA recommends a $2 billion increase, to $41.2 billion, for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and proportional funding to its 27 Institutes and Centers, including the National Institute of Mental Health for their work on addressing mental health and mental disorders, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for their work on child development and behavior, and pediatric trauma and violence.