WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — There are now hundreds of millions of dollars available for schools to increase mental health services and hire more counselors.
However, finding qualified people to hire could be a challenge, as young people in America face a mental health crisis.
“Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34,” said Jill Cook from the American School Counselor Association.
The U.S. Department of Education is providing $280 million to fund the access of mental health support workers. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona says schools can now apply for grants thanks to the Safer Communities Act, which is intended to prevent school violence with a focus on mental health.
“Hiring additional school social workers, school psychologists, family support workers that help families deal with the trauma they’ve experienced,” Cardona said.
But that could prove difficult due to an acute shortage of school mental health professionals and counselors.
Cook recommends one counselor per 250 students but says currently there’s only one per 415.
“We’d need another 80,000 school counselors,” she said.
Cook says this is the first time she can remember that the number of school counselor vacancies has exceeded the number of available professionals. She also said the new grants from the education department will be helpful to fund incentive programs to attract more counselors.