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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 CEO of Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund.

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. Over the past few weeks, funding to keep kids both physically and mentally safe has started to become available, thanks to this new law.

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.

As many of these most recent mental health legislative actions are put into practice, 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 are being expanded and funding can 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) will provide critical resources to school districts, states, and tribes for early intervention programs in schools, like 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, so it’s critical to our work that every school has access to lifesaving, youth suicide prevention training. As part of our Say Something program, Prevent Suicide is Sandy Hook Promise’s program that teaches youth and adults about the warning signs and risks for suicide and how to support someone in crisis.

The Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act now helps more 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.

The BSCA also added $240 million for Project AWARE grants, including $28 million to support trauma care in schools. The Project Aware application for funding is open through October 13, 2022 for up to 20 awards to states, local education agencies, and tribes. Additional funding is expected to be available in 2023.

Empowering School Mental Health Services

As a parent and gun violence prevention advocate, I know firsthand how invaluable the mental health workforce is to our school communities. Empowering them is a key priority in our work. Giving students more access to Trusted Adults trained in violence and suicide prevention and services helps support 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 of the BSCA funds are set to 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, fueling our effort to save more children’s lives.

Let your elected officials know you care about mental health, suicide prevention, and violence prevention. Stay on top of what our Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund is working on to help children’s emotional and mental well-being.