The Biden administration is looking to make good on a multi-million dollar promise to address the nation's mental health care crisis, starting with young people. This week, thousands of students are heading back to the classroom and officials want to make sure schools have all the supplies they need and that goes beyond pencils and paper.
Monday in Delaware marked a call to action.
"This is a 911 moment," said Senator Lisa Blunt Rochester.
At Nemours Children's Health in Wilmington, administration officials and members of Congress heard from the people at the center of the mental health crisis.
"When my school counselors found out about the way that I was feeling, they provided me with weekly scar checks, instead of providing me with the counseling that I needed due to a lack of resources," said Andrew Celio, a student.
The event is among a series of stops across the country, bringing attention to the $140 million set aside for schools to hire additional mental health professionals; hoping to meet kids where they are.
It was also a chance to hear some solutions being passed in the state, like a mental health curriculum for grades K-12.
Valerie Longhurst is a Delaware state representative.
"It starts in Kindergarten, if you provide the services as we understand them, we break that stigma. It is okay to not be okay," Longhurst said.
While mental health challenges among young people have been on the rise for some time, the past few years have brought unique challenges.
"I remember what it felt like, Andrew, to be a teenager then, pre-social media, pre-pandemic, pre-George Floyd, us witnessing a murder in front of our eyes, bullying, cyber-bulling all of these things didn't exist then and I knew how hard it was," said Blunt Rochester.
According to the CDC, in 2021, 37% of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year.
"Pretty clear message that we need help; we need you. We need you now. The beauty of what we heard is that we are listening," said Xavier Becerra, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Besides the need for mental health care officials in schools; there is a specific need for bilingual and minority health providers. Senator Chris Coons told Newsy they hope to encourage more diverse students to pursue higher ed degrees in mental health, a long term goal that starts with helping people pay off student loans.
"Part of this is public service loan forgiveness. There is robust loan forgiveness available, the state of Delaware already has the inspired grants that make a 4-year education at Delaware State University almost free but there is more we can and should do," said Coons.
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