The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) passed in 2022 provides critical support to make our schools and communities safer. Over the next five years, the BSCA will invest $1 billion in new programs, including funds to expand access to mental health services in schools and to develop new initiatives to foster safer, more inclusive school environments. Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, these funds will be critical to supporting student mental health, well-being, and safety.
Two programs within the BSCA will specifically support schools:
- The School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program will increase the number of qualified mental health professionals in schools so students can access the support they need.
- The Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program will fund innovative programs and partnerships to improve the pipeline of qualified and diverse mental health professionals with a focus on increasing access in high-needs schools.
Around the country, public charter schools are building safe, inclusive school communities and funds from the BSCA will help grow that impact. The U.S. Department of Education recently announced the first round of grantees which include nine charter schools and networks that propose innovative ways to center student and community well-being. Many of the proposed charter school projects are specifically focused on increasing the diversity of school-based mental health professionals to better reflect the communities that schools serve.
Here are some highlights from the charter school projects that the BSCA will fund:
SCHOOL-BASED MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES GRANT
Academy of Mathematics and Science South (AZ) will provide mental health services to an estimated 1,000 students through professional development and hiring and retaining additional mental health providers, with a focus on increased diversity among staff.
Animo Jackie Robinson Charter High School (CA) will partner with 17 other Green Dot Public Schools to strategically increase capacity on the School-Based Mental Health Team to serve the network’s more than 10,000 students.
Ingenuity Prep Public Charter School (DC) will focus on prevention, early intervention, and clinical services to support an identity-safe community by increasing the number and diversity of school-based mental health providers.
AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School (DC) will partner with Georgetown University to strengthen the pipeline and increase the diversity and cultural competency of school-based mental health professionals to support nearly 500 preschoolers.
Charter School of Educational Excellence (NY) will focus on recruiting and retaining diverse mental health professionals with lived experience relevant to that of the students and families the school serves.
Waxahachie Faith Family Academy (TX) will dramatically increase access to mental health services for 2,800 students largely from low-income backgrounds, including by leveraging tele-mental health services.
Uplift Education (TX) will strengthen the diversity of the school-based mental health professionals pipeline by partnering with local minority-serving institutions, developing retention incentives to bring compensation closer to market value, and focusing on hiring more Spanish-speaking staff.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICE PROFESSIONAL DEMONSTRATION GRANT
iEmpire Academy (CA) will lead a consortium of schools serving more than 6,500 students in a partnership with a minority-serving university. Through this partnership, the University of the Redlands will intentionally place graduate students in consortium schools for required fieldwork, supporting the pipeline of diverse mental health professionals to serve in high-needs schools.
Multicultural Learning Center (CA) will bring together a consortium of high-needs schools to partner with Pepperdine University to expand the pipeline of school-based mental health service providers, increase diversity in the pipeline, and promote inclusive practices to support mental health in schools.
Congratulations to all the incredible charter schools and networks that are putting student and community well-being first!
Fiona Sheridan-McIver is the director of policy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.