Stabenow calls for expansion of school mental health services

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) addresses reporters during a press conference on Thursday, July 15, 2021 to discuss the Child Tax Credit payments being sent out.
Greg Nash

Following last week’s deadly Michigan school shooting, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said that mental and behavioral health services in schools need to be expanded.

Stabenow, who serves as Chair of the Senate Finance subcommittee on health care, said that school and community mental health resources need to be “fully funded like we fund healthcare below the neck.” 

“There is no question that we have got to strengthen what we’re doing around mental health services in schools. We have school based health clinics that are not funded as they should be,” Stabenow said Tuesday, speaking at The Hill’s “Strengthening America’s Healthcare System” event. 

The comments followed the latest mass school shooting in the U.S., this time leaving four dead and seven injured at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit. The suspected shooter, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley, showed worrying signs in the days before the shooting. 

In May, Stabenow and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced a bipartisan bill that would provide $50 million in federal funding for behavioral health services in schools. 

Speaking to The Hill’s Steve Clemons, she called President Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which passed the House last month, a “huge step” for mental healthcare funding.

The bill provides funding for crisis support intended to divert mentally ill people from the criminal justice system and into healthcare facilities, as well as $75 million for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The bill also includes provisions for the enforcement of federal parity laws, which require insurance providers to be no more restrictive on mental health coverage than they are for other medical care.

“On behavioral health, we now have very specific numbers showing that we’re keeping people out of jails because they can get help,” Stabenow said. 

“We don’t leave law enforcement in a position where they don’t know what to do with someone who’s got a problem so they go sit in jail,” she added. 

Tuesday’s event was sponsored by the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future.

Stabenow said that mental healthcare in the United States is “moving in the right direction,” but community-based mental health resources need to be stronger.

“Health systems benefit when people can get to a doctor, whether it’s a physical doctor or psychiatrist, if you can get help on the front end, you are saving money for the healthcare system rather than picking up the pieces,” Stabenow said. 

Tags Debbie Stabenow Joe Biden mental health care Michigan school shooting Shelley Moore Capito
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