IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
March 16, 2022
Mr. Peters (for himself and Ms. Stabenow) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
To authorize the Secretary of Education to make grants to fund additional school-based mental health providers to help reduce psychological harm, and assist with the return to adaptive coping in schools following a violent or traumatic crisis, and for other purposes.
This Act may be cited as the
Helping Education After Loss Act of 2022 or the
HEAL Act of 2022.
Congress finds the following:
On Tuesday, November 30, 2021, a student at Oxford High School killed and injured several students with a handgun loaded with a high-capacity magazine.
Children exposed to violence, injury, and other potentially traumatic events are at risk for developing traumatic stress reactions, including as follows:
The National Center for PTSD estimates that 28 percent of people who have witnessed a mass shooting develop PTSD and 1/3 develop acute stress disorder.
While some survivors only experience temporary symptoms, others will be symptomatic for a much longer period of time and even develop chronic psychiatric disorders.
Both short-term and long-term impairments can cause severe distress and have profound effects on academic achievement and the social and emotional growth of impacted students.
Youth with access to mental health services in school-based health centers are 10 times more likely to seek care for mental health or substance abuse than youth without access.
The leading counseling, guidance, and mental health organizations, including the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Social Workers, and the School Social Work Association of America, recommend that schools maintain—
a maximum student to school counselor ratio of 250 to 1;
a maximum student to school psychologist ratio of 500 to 1; and
a maximum student to school social worker ratio of 250 to 1.
According to the Education Trust, nearly 1 in 5 students do not have access to a counselor in their school at all, and many of those students have only limited access to other school support staff, such as school psychologists or social workers.
In this Act:
Acute crisis response activity
The term acute crisis response activity means an activity in response to an acute crisis, including services to provide immediate trauma intervention, advocacy, crisis intervention, death notification, and victim and survivor assistance.
The term eligible entity means a local educational agency that serves a school that has experienced a violent or traumatic crisis.
Local educational agency
The term local educational agency means a public board of education or other public authority legally constituted within a State for either administrative control or direction of, or to perform a service function for, public elementary schools or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of a State, or of or for a combination of school districts or counties that is recognized in a State as an administrative agency for its public elementary schools or secondary schools.
School-based mental health provider
The term school-based mental health provider means a State-licensed or State-certified school counselor, school psychologist, school social worker, community-based mental health provider organization, or other State-licensed or State-certified mental health professional qualified under State law to provide mental health services to children and adolescents.
The term Secretary means the Secretary of Education.
Establishment of the acute crisis response grant program
The Secretary shall award non-competitive grants from allotments under paragraph (2) to eligible entities to fund additional full-time, part-time, and contractual school-based mental health providers and acute crisis response activities in order to help the eligible entity respond to the violent or traumatic crisis.
From amounts appropriated under section 6 for a fiscal year, the Secretary shall allot to each eligible entity an amount that—
is of sufficient size and scope to enable the eligible entity to respond to the violent or traumatic crisis; and
is not more than $250,000 for the fiscal year.
A grant awarded under this section shall be for not longer than a 2-year period, and may be renewed for an additional 2-year period, at the Secretary’s discretion.
Notice of eligibility
Not later than 30 days after the date of a violent or traumatic crisis that affects a school community, the Secretary shall notify the eligible entity that serves such school of the availability of grant awards under this section.
An eligible entity that desires to receive a grant under this section shall submit an application to the Secretary at such time, in such manner, and containing such information as the Secretary may require.
Use of funds
An eligible entity awarded a grant under this section shall use the grant funds to hire additional full-time, part-time, and contractual school-based mental health providers and acute crisis response activities in order to help the eligible entity respond to the violent or traumatic crisis.
Supplement not supplant
Funds made available under this section shall be used to supplement, and not supplant, other Federal, State, or private funds that would otherwise be expended to respond to the violent or traumatic crisis.
Study on the affects of violent and traumatic events in schools
The Secretary, in collaboration with Secretary of Health and Human Services, shall conduct a special resource study of communities that have experienced a violent or traumatic crisis.
In conducting the study under subsection (a), the Secretary shall—
evaluate how violent and traumatic events can affect a student's mental health, and the potential risks for developing chronic psychiatric disorders; and
develop evidence-based best practices for a school to return to learning after the school has been disrupted due to violent or traumatic crisis, including best practices for supporting school staff in such return.
Authorization of appropriations
There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this Act—
$15,000,000 for fiscal year 2022; and
such sums as may be necessary for each succeeding fiscal year.