For years, we have understood that children in our state experience mental health challenges at a higher rate than most of the rest of the nation and have less access to needed prevention, early intervention services, and supports. By providing children with readily available resources at their schools—where they spend most of their time—we can help improve the current crisis.
In 2014, the School Health Professionals Grant Program was established to provide time-limited funding to schools to increase the presence of school health professionals and support the mental health needs of students. However, this program has fallen short of giving all of Colorado’s youth the resources they need. Senate Bill 10 (SB19-010) will strengthen the School Health Professionals Grant program by:
- Clarifying the definition of behavioral health includes mental health.
- Allowing schools to put the funding towards telehealth technology for direct services by a school health professional.
- Allowing schools to use the funding to contract with a community partner for mental health services.
- Allowing, but not requiring, professionals hired through this grant program to provide therapy to students.
- Changing the criteria by which schools are prioritized for grants.
There is an enormous need for mental health professionals in schools; however, the average Colorado professional to student ratios are higher than the recommended ratios. In 2017, 42 districts were funded by the grant program and 24 districts that applied did not receive grant funding. Almost every school district that was denied funding is below the nationally recommended staff to student ratios.
All Colorado children deserve the same resources to prevent and support any mental health challenges they may face while attending school.