Senator Cornyn

Cornyn, Sinema, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Improve Schools’ Access to Mental Health Grants

March 21, 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) today introduced the Creating Access and Resources in Education (CARE) for Student Mental Health Act, which would help schools apply for federal mental health grants funded in part by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act:

“Far too many young people struggle with their mental health, and far too many schools lack the resources to recognize and care for students who may be in crisis,” said Sen. Cornyn. “To break this vicious cycle, our legislation would help connect schools with the potentially life-saving mental health resources provided by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to hire additional school psychologists and invest in the wellbeing of their students.”

“Children should learn in healthy and safe environments,” said Sen. Sinema. “Building on our Bipartisan Safer Communities law, our new bipartisan legislation will strengthen comprehensive school mental health services to Arizona students.”

“As the founder and co-chair of the Senate Mental Health Caucus, I’m committed to ending the stigma surrounding mental health and ensuring students have access to necessary resources and support services,” said Sen. Tillis. “This legislation builds on the historic Bipartisan Safer Communities Act by further expanding access to school-based mental health care that is critically important as students navigate the challenges of today. Crucially, this legislation helps provide mental health professionals to the communities that need them the most.”

“Students across Montana, particularly in rural areas, often turn to schools as their only option for mental health care – and we’ve got to ensure we have the capabilities and staff to meet the needs of their communities,” said Sen. Tester. “This bipartisan legislation makes big strides to invest in mental health professionals in underserved schools. I’ll keep working to fight the shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas and ensure our students have the support they need and deserve.”

“Students have been open in sharing their mental health challenges with me and highlighting the need for better access to treatment, which is why I am working with my colleagues across the aisle to help schools recruit, retain, and train mental health professionals,” said Sen. Hassan. “With assistance through a federal grant program, the University of New Hampshire has collaborated with the Manchester School District to train and place more mental health professionals in schools. This new bipartisan legislation will help grow these types of impactful partnerships so that schools have skilled professionals who are qualified to meet students’ mental health needs.”


One in five children have a diagnosable mental or behavioral health disorder, and approximately 40% of students will experience symptoms of depression or anxiety by the seventh grade. Despite this growing crisis, a majority of school districts have limited or no access to school-based mental health providers such as psychologists, counselors, and social workers.

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, authored by Sen. Cornyn and signed into law in June of 2022, made historic investments in school-based mental health and supportive services, including $1 billion for the Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant Program and School-Based Mental Health Services Program to hire more school psychologists, counselors, social workers, and other mental health services providers. However, less than 3% of eligible entities have applied for these grants, oftentimes because they do not have the administrative bandwidth to do so or the awareness that these grants are available.

The Creating Access and Resources in Education (CARE) for Student Mental Health Act would help bridge the gap between schools in need and available mental health resources by:

  • Clarifying the distinction, purpose, and allowable activities of each grant to help eligible entities quickly determine which grant best meets their needs;
  • Requiring the U.S. Department of Education to improve notification and technical assistance for potential grantees to enable more school districts with limited administrative capacity to apply and compete for these federal grants;
  • Authorizing and streamlining the Strengthening the Pipeline of School-Based Mental Health Services Providers Program, which supports partnerships between colleges, universities, and school districts to increase the number of properly trained school-based mental health service professionals;
  • And authorizing the School-Based Mental Health Services Program that assists high-need school districts to recruit, hire, and retain school-based mental health personnel for students to remain healthy, engaged, and safe at school.

The legislation is endorsed by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, National Association of School Psychologists, American Federation of School Administrators, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Music Therapy Association, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Council of Administrators of Special Education, Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy, & Action, Healthy Schools Campaign, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of School Nurses, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Rural Education Association, School Social Work Association of America, American Occupational Therapy Association, and more.

Sen. Cornyn is a member of the Senate Mental Health Caucus, which was founded in 2023 by Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Tina Smith (D-MN) to create a forum for Senators to collaborate on and promote bipartisan legislation and solutions, hold events to raise awareness of critical mental health issues, and destigmatize mental health.