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How the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Will Help Youth Mental Health

SAVE Students Press Conference on student safety and mental health funding - Senator Steve Santarsiero

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Mark Barden, father of Daniel who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, is our guest blogger. Today, Mark works tirelessly to forward Daniel’s legacy and protect all children as co-founder and co-CEO of Sandy Hook Promise.

Thanks to grassroots supporters and our consistent work on both sides of the aisle, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) was signed into law on June 25, 2022. The first federal gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act also made historic investments in mental health. Thanks to this law, funding to keep kids both physically and mentally safe is available.

This is at the heart and soul of our mission’s work and is quite personal to me. When my precious son Daniel’s life was taken at Sandy Hook Elementary, I made a Promise: I would devote my own life to making sure no other parent would have to endure such horrific pain.

These mental health legislative actions are reminders that the best way to keep honoring children who have been tragically taken from us is to use our collective voices. It is because of persistent advocacy, bipartisanship, and your support that these children’s mental health services have been expanded and funding continues to be delivered to schools and communities throughout the country.

I have so much gratitude for you all and your continued action and support.

Holistic Violence Prevention Programs for More Schools

Additional funding for the STOP School Violence Act ($300 million) provides critical resources to school districts, states, and tribes for early intervention programs in schools. This includes our Know the Signs programs, that teach students to “know the signs,” act as an Upstander, talk to a Trusted Adult, and prevent a tragedy.

Expanding Suicide Prevention Training Efforts

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24. It’s critical to our work that every school has access to life-saving, youth suicide prevention training. As part of our Say Something program, Prevent Suicide is our program that teaches youth and adults about the warning signs of suicide. Critically, they learn how to support someone in crisis.

The Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act helps schools access funding for suicide prevention training through Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resiliency in Education). Project AWARE grants made three awards of up to $1.8 million available for up to five years.

Empowering School Mental Health Services

As a parent and gun violence prevention advocate, I know how invaluable the mental health workforce is to our school communities. Empowering them is a key priority in our work. When students have access to Trusted Adults training in violence and suicide prevention and services they can thrive. Their mental health, as well as their ability to know how to recognize and intervene when warning signs arise. To support this, the BSCA included additional funding for the following programs:

  • $500 million for the Mental Health Service Professionals Demonstration Grant. This helps expand the pipeline of school-based mental health professionals, including counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists.
  • $500 million for the School Based Mental Health Services Grant Program. This increase incentives for mental health educator recruitment, retention, and promotion.

Additionally, some BSCA funds improve community-based mental healthcare for children, including expansion of telehealth opportunities for behavioral health services. Telehealth is a vital resource to quickly expand and improve mental health care for youth in underserved areas.

Find out more about what’s in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

How You Can Help: Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund

These incredible mental health strides for our children are just the beginning. Sandy Hook Promise will continue to advocate for additional mental health support throughout our communities and save more children’s lives.

Let your elected officials know you care about mental health, suicide prevention, and violence prevention. See what the Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund (SHPAF) is working on to help children’s emotional and mental well-being. Visit the SHPAF website for more information and to get involved.