Skip to content

Kaine & Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Increase Mental Health Resources for Students in Schools

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in introducing the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act, bicameral legislation that would boost the availability of mental health providers in America’s public schools and help combat the alarming increase in mental health challenges among young people.

“If we want students to be successful, then we need to ensure they have the resources they need to thrive. That includes access to mental health services at school,” said Kaine. “This bill would help ensure schools have enough counselors and mental health professionals to provide students with the support they need.”

In December 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory highlighting the major increase in mental health challenges that children and adolescents are experiencing following the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Murthy found that one in three high school students and half of female students report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. While these numbers are on the rise, American schools are struggling to supply enough counselors to aid the alarming number of struggling students. The recommended maximum student-to-counselor ratio is 250 students per counselor; however, the current national average is 385 students per counselor.

This legislation will establish five-year renewable grant programs to help elementary and secondary schools hire additional school-based mental health providers, including counselors, psychologists, and social workers, to ensure students have access to comprehensive mental health care and support resources.

As a member of the Senate HELP Committee, Kaine has long fought to expand mental health resources for young people. In February 2024, he introduced legislation to fund youth suicide prevention initiatives, ensure health care providers receive training to prevent intentional harm, and create a centralized hub to provide safety information to at-risk youth and their support networks. He has cosponsored legislation to expand full-service community schools, which are public schools and districts that bring in wraparound services, including mental health care, to better support students. He helped pass the Bipartisan Safer Communities Actwhich increased funding for mental health resources in school.

The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MN), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA-05).

Full text of the bill can be found here.