As a part of the recently passed Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, congress has approved billions of new dollars for a variety of new initiatives to combat gun violence.
This is critical, as local governments face a stark reality when it comes to gun-related violence. More Americans died of gun-related injuries in 2020 than in any other year on record, with over 45,000 Americans losing their lives. Over half of these deaths were a result of suicide and, as such, Congress has made it a priority to expand and enhance local mental health resources.
The bill contains:
- $1.05 billion for school improvement programs
- $1 billion for safe schools and citizenship education
- $500 million set aside for school-based mental health grants
- $500 million for grants to mental health professional development.
- $28 million for school-based trauma support
And those mental health grants break down into:
- $80 million for pediatric rapid care for mental health
- $60 million in mental health training for pediatricians
- $150 million for the suicide crisis hotline
- $250 million for community mental health
Beyond just working to minimize gun violence, studies show that poor mental health can lead to lower test scores, worse attendance, disorderly behavior and an increase chance of dropping out. Therefore, potential recipients of these funds can use the money to improve the overall lives of students beyond just lowering gun violence.
And though much of the legislation focuses on school related mental health, the bill is expansive enough that local authorities can utilize the funds to help with other emergencies, such as the homeless crisis or veteran suicide rates.
Although this bill has only recently been signed into law, local authorities should begin crafting their programs now in anticipation of the money being dispersed. In the wake of recent tragic school shootings, mental health and school safety are at top of many minds. As such, it would be prudent for local governments to work immediately to ensure they have well-rounded programs ready to be approved and funded.