President Obama released his budget proposal on April 10. With it came good news and not so good news. The good news is that the President’s proposal overall includes a new $130 million initiative for expanding mental health services that would include counselor positions. The President’s budget also requests $7 billion to expand mental health care for veterans, which represents a $469 million increase from the previous year. Some bad news is that the school counseling program, Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program (ESSCP), was zeroed out once again and the money is proposed to be spent under a new program called Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students. ACA is disappointed to see the Administration and the Department of Education decide to no longer request funding for a program that has demonstrated great success and high demand as seen by the number of applicants each time a call for grant proposals is made. Why is this bad if funding has been increased in new and different mental health proposals by the President? The reality of our politically-polarized Congress could cause Republicans to claim common ground with the Administration by agreeing to save money on programs that were cut in the President’s proposal. Republican offices have also told us that they are not interested in approving any new programs that will cost money. Therefore, school counselors could lose all specified federal funding that has been critical to hundreds of school counseling programs. ACA needs school counselors who have received ESSCP grants and school counselors who have successful intervention data to share their stories with their federal Congress members (and us!).
There have been some promising pieces of mental health legislation moving through the Senate recently. Two bills, the Excellence in Mental Health Act, S. 264, and the Mental Health and Improvement Act (S. 689) may be proposed as amendments to the gun violence legislation that the Senate is believed to be voting on this week. S. 689 was recently passed out of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee after pulling together the language in a strong, bipartisan fashion. Read Chairman Harkin’s press release here<http://www.help.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=beb70e50-e63e-476e-84ad-6912905af826&groups=Chair>. Any legislation that may pass in the Senate will still need to be passed by the House of Representatives. Please continue to share your stories with Congress of how mental health services make a difference in your community, along with the grave need for increased resources.
You can communicate easily with Congress by going to our website<http://capwiz.com/counseling/home/>.